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Full text of "Understudies : short stories"

•.tic. 5 




TURNER FREE LIBRARY 



3 1642 00290 1702 



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UNDERSTUDIES 



&&ort Stories 

By 

MARY E. WILKINS 

Author of 

"Jerome" "Pembroke" "Madelon" 
"Jane Field" etc, 

ILLUSTRATED 




NEW YORK AND LONDON 

HARPER fir BROTHERS PUBLISHERS 
1901 



Copyright, 1901, by Harpbr & Bjrotheks. 

All rights reserved. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

The Cat 3 

The Monkey 19 

The Squirrel 39 

The Lost Dog 53 

The Parrot 65 

The Doctor's Horse 85 

Bouncing Bet 99 

Prince's-Feather 123 

Arethusa 147 

Mountain-Laurel 173 

Peony 193 

Morning-Glory 217 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



THE CAT FORAGED TIRELESSLY" . . . Frontispiece 

THE BOY AND THE MONKEY LOOKED 

RIDICULOUSLY ALIKE" Facing p. 26 

HE WAS A VIBRATION OF LIBERTY " . * ' 30 

THE BIRD-FANCIER WATCHED HIM" . 14 34 

THEY CHATTERED ANGRILY" .... 44 44 

BOTH THE DOG AND THE MAN WERE 

THOROUGHBREDS" <4 56 

'HE'S COMING, MARTHA T" .... " 72 

' WHY, MARTHA ! WHAT IS THE MAT- 
TER ?' " 44 74 

SHE OVERLOOKED HER SUPPLY OF 

LINEN" 44 76 

A WOMAN OF AFFECTIONATE GLIBNESS * 44 78 

BUT INWARDLY HER VERY SOUL 

STORMED AND PROTESTED "... 44 80 

HE WAS A FIRM AND HARD MAN IN 

THE PURSUANCE OF HIS DUTY" . . " 86 

HE THUNDERED ALONG THE ROAD " . " 92 

THE LAST SURVIVOR WAS A WOMAN " . " I02, 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



"SHE USED TO SIT EN HER BAY - WIN- 
DOW " Facing p. 106 

THE OLD LYMAN HOMESTEAD .... 44 U2 

44 EUGENE AND CAMILLA WERE SEEN 

DRIVING TOGETHER" 44 130 

"THE MOST AMIABLE WIFE IN THE 

WORLD" '* 142 

' 1 THERE CAME ANOTHER MAIDEN TO 

VISIT HER" 44 148 

44 4 DO YOU MEAN FOR ME TO KISS 

HIM?' " 44 154 

44 A LAST ASSERTION OF HER MAIDEN 

FREEDOM " 44 166 

44 THE MILTON HE PORED OVER FOR 

HOURS" 44 186 

4 4 4 I'D LOOK PRETTY CLIMBING MOUN- 
TAINS, WOULDN'T I?'" 44 200 

44 ARABELLA HAD QUITE AN ORCHARD " . 44 204 

44 HE USED TO VIEW HIS SMALL IMAGE" 44 220 

44 4 HERE,' SAID SHE, 4 HERE'S YOUR 

RING I* " " 228 



THE CAT 



THE CAT 

THE snow was falling, and the Cat's 
fur was stiffly pointed with it, but he 
was imperturbable. He sat crouched, ready 
for the death-spring, as he had sat for hours. 
It was night — but that made no difference — 
all times were as one to the Cat when he was 
in wait for prey. Then, too, he was under 
no constraint of human will, for he was liv- 
ing alone that winter. Nowhere in the world 
was any voice calling him; on no hearth 
was there a waiting dish. He was quite 
free except for his own desires, which tyran- 
nized over him when unsatisfied as now. 
The Cat was very hungry — almost fam- 
ished, in fact. For days the weather had 
been very bitter, and all the feebler wild 
things which were his prey by inheritance, 
the born serfs to his family, had kept, for 
the most part, in their burrows and nests, 
and the Cat's long hunt had availed him 
3 



UNDERSTUDIES 

nothing. But lie waited with the incon- 
ceivable patience and persistency of his 
race; besides, he was certain. The Cat 
was a creature of absolute convictions, and 
his faith in his deductions never wavered. 
The rabbit had gone in there between those 
low-hung pine boughs. Now her little door- 
way had before it a shaggy curtain of snow, 
but in there she was. The Cat had seen her 
enter, so like a swift gray shadow that even 
his sharp and practised eyes had glanced 
back for the substance following, and then 
she was gone. So he sat down and waited, 
and he waited still in the white night, lis- 
tening angrily to the north wind starting 
in the upper heights of the mountains with 
distant screams, then swelling into an awful 
crescendo of rage, and swooping down with 
furious white wings of snow like a flock of 
fierce eagles into the valleys and ravines. 
The Cat was on the side of a mountain, on a 
wooded terrace. Above him a few feet away 
towered the rock ascent as steep as the wall 
of a cathedral. The Cat had never climbed 
it — trees were the ladders to his heights of 
life. He had often looked with wonder at 
the rock, and miauled bitterly and resent- 
fully as man does in the face of a forbidding 
4 



THE CAT 

Providence. At his left was the sheer prec- 
ipice. Behind him, with a short stretch of 
woody growth between, was the frozen per- 
pendicular fall of a mountain stream. Be- 
fore him was the way to his home. When 
the rabbit came out she was trapped; her 
little cloven feet could not scale such un- 
broken steeps. So the Cat waited. The 
place in which he was looked like a maelstrom 
of the wood. The tangle of trees and bushes 
clinging to the mountain-side with a stern 
clutch of roots, the prostrate trunks and 
branches, the vines embracing everything 
with strong knots and coils of growth, had a 
curious effect, as of things which had whirled 
for ages in a current of raging water, only 
it was not water, but wind, which had dis- 
posed everything in circling lines of yielding 
to its fiercest points of onset. And now over 
all this whirl of wood and rock and dead 
trunks and branches and vines descended 
the snow. It blew down like smoke over 
the rock-crest above; it stood in a gyrating 
column like some death-wraith of nature, 
on the level, then it broke over the edge of 
the precipice, and the Cat cowered before 
the fierce backward set of it. It was as 
if ice needles pricked his skin through his 
5 



UNDERSTUDIES 



beautiful thick fur, but he never faltered 
and never once cried. He had nothing to 
gain from crying, and everything to lose; 
the rabbit would hear him cry and know he 
was waiting. 

It grew darker and darker, with a strange 
white smother, instead of the natural black- 
ness of night. It was a night of storm and 
death superadded to the night of nature. The 
mountains were all hidden, wrapped about, 
overawed, and tumultuously overborne by 
it, but in the midst of it waited, quite un- 
conquered, this little, unswerving, living 
patience and power under a little coat of 
gray fur. 

A fiercer blast swept over the rock, spun 
on one mighty foot of whirlwind athwart the 
level, then was over the precipice. 

Then the Cat saw two eyes luminous with 
terror, frantic with the impulse of flight, he 
saw a little, quivering, dilating nose, he saw 
two pointing ears, and he kept still, with every 
one of his fine nerves and muscles strained 
like wires. Then the rabbit was out — there 
was one long line of incarnate flight and ter- 
ror — and the Cat had her. 

Then the Cat went home, trailing his prey 
through the snow. 

6 



THE CAT 



The Cat lived in the house which his mas- 
ter had built, as rudely as a child's block- 
house, but stanchly enough. The snow 
was heavy on the low slant of its roof, but 
it would not settle under it. The two win- 
dows and the door were made fast, but the 
Cat knew a way in. Up a pine-tree behind 
the house he scuttled, though it was hard 
work with his heavy rabbit, and was in his 
little window under the eaves, then down 
through the trap to the room below, and on 
his master's bed with a spring and a great 
cry of triumph, rabbit and all. But his mas- 
ter was not there; he had been gone since 
early fall, and it was now February. He 
would not return until spring, for he was an 
old man, and the cruel cold of the mountains 
clutched at his vitals like a panther, and he 
had gone to the village to winter. The Cat 
had known for a long time that his master 
was gone, but his reasoning was always 
sequential and circuitous; always for him 
what had been would be, and the more easily 
for his marvellous waiting powers, so he 
always came home expecting to find his 
master. 

When he saw that he was still gone, he 
dragged the rabbit off the rude couch which 
7 



UNDERSTUDIES 



was the bed to the floor, put one little paw 
on the carcass to keep it steacty, and began 
gnawing with head to one side to bring his 
strongest teeth to bear. 

It was darker in the house than it had been 
in the wood, and the cold was as deadly, 
though not so fierce. If the Cat had not re- 
ceived his fur coat unquestioningly of Prov- 
idence, he would have been thankful that he 
had it. It was a mottled gray, white on the 
face and breast, and thick as fur could grow. 

The wind drove the snow on the windows 
with such force that it rattled like sleet, and 
the house trembled a little. Then all at once 
the Cat heard a noise, and stopped gnawing 
his rabbit and listened, his shining green 
eyes fixed upon a window. Then he heard 
a hoarse shout, a halloo of despair and en- 
treat}-; but he knew it was not his master 
come home, and he waited, one paw still on 
the rabbit. Then the halloo came again, 
and then the Cat answered. He said all that 
was essential quite plainly to his own com- 
prehension. There was in his cry of re- 
sponse inquiry, information, warning, ter- 
ror, and, finally, the offer of comradeship; 
but the man outside did not hear him, be- 
cause of the howling of the storm. 
~ 8 



THE CAT 



Then there was a great battering pound 
at the door, then another, and another. The 
Cat dragged his rabbit under the bed. The 
blows came thicker and faster. It was a 
weak arm which gave them, but it was nerved 
by desperation. Finally the lock yielded, 
and the stranger came in. Then the Cat, 
peering from under the bed, blinked with a 
sudden light, and his green eyes narrowed. 
The stranger struck a match and looked 
about. The Cat saw a face wild and blue 
with hunger and cold, and a man who looked 
poorer and older than his poor old master, 
who was an outcast among men for his pov- 
erty and lowly mystery of antecedents ; and 
he heard a muttered, unintelligible voicing 
of distress from the harsh, piteous mouth. 
There was in it both profanity and prayer, 
but the Cat knew nothing of that. 

The stranger braced the door which he had 
forced, got some wood from the stock in the 
corner, and kindled a fire in the old stove as 
quickly as his half-frozen hands would al- 
low. He shook so pitiably as he worked that 
the Cat under the bed felt the tremor of it. 
Then the man, who was small and feeble and 
marked with the scars of suffering which 
he had pulled down upon his own head, sat 
9 



UNDERSTUDIES 

down in one of the old chairs and crouched 
over the fire as if it were the one love and de- 
sire of his soul, holding out his yellow hands 
like yellow claws, and he groaned. The 
Cat came out from under the bed and leaped 
up on his lap with the rabbit. The man 
gave a great shout and start of terror, and 
sprang, and the Cat slid clawing to the floor, 
and the rabbit fell inertly, and the man leaned, 
gasping with fright, and ghastly, against the 
wall. The Cat grabbed the rabbit by the 
slack of its neck and dragged it to the man's 
feet. Then he raised his shrill, insistent 
cry, he arched his back high, his tail was a 
splendid waving plume. He rubbed against 
the man's feet, which were bursting out of 
their torn shoes. 

The man pushed the Cat away, gently 
enough, and began searching about the little 
cabin. He even climbed painfully the lad- 
der to the loft, lit a match, and peered up in 
the darkness with straining eyes. He feared 
lest there might be a man, since there was a 
cat. His experience with men had not been 
pleasant, and neither had the experience of 
men been pleasant with him. He was an 
old wandering Ishmael among his kind; 
he had stumbled upon the house of a broth- 
10 



THE CAT 



er, and the brother was not at home, and he 
was glad. 

He returned to the Cat, and stooped stiffly 
and stroked his back, which the animal 
arched like the spring of a bow. 

Then he took up the rabbit and looked at 
it eagerly by the firelight. His jaws worked. 
He could almost have devoured it raw. He 
fumbled — the Cat close at his heels — around 
some rude shelves and a table, and found, 
with a grunt of self-gratulation, a lamp with 
oil in it. That he lighted; then he found 
a frying-pan and a knife, and skinned the 
rabbit, and prepared it for cooking, the Cat 
always at his feet. 

When the odor of the cooking flesh filled 
the cabin, both the man and the Cat looked 
wolfish. The man turned the rabbit with 
one hand, and stooped to pat the Cat with 
the other. The Cat thought him a fine man. 
He loved him with all his heart, though he 
had known him such a short time, and though 
the man had a face both pitiful and sharply 
set at variance with the best of things. 

It was a face with the grimy grizzle of age 
upon it, with fever hollows in the cheeks, 
and the memories of wrong in the dim eyes, 
but the Cat accepted the man unquestioning- 
II 



UNDERSTUDIES 



ly and loved him. When the rabbit was 
half cooked, neither the man nor the Cat 
could wait any longer. The man took it 
from the fire, divided it exactly in halves, 
gave the Cat one, and took the other him- 
self. Then they ate. 

Then the man blew out the light, called 
the Cat to him, got on the bed, drew up the 
ragged coverings, and fell asleep with the 
Cat in his bosom. 

The man was the Cat's guest all the rest 
of the winter, and winter is long in the moun- 
tains. The rightful owner of the little hut 
did not return until May. All that time the 
Cat toiled hard, and he grew rather thin him- 
self, for he shared everything except mice 
with his guest; and sometimes game was 
wary, and the fruit of the patience of days 
was very little for two. The man was ill 
and weak, however, and unable to eat much, 
which was fortunate, since he could not hunt 
for himself. All day long he lay on the 
bed, or else sat crouched over the fire. It 
was a good thing that fire-wood was ready 
at hand for the picking up, not a stone's- 
throw from the door, for that he had to at- 
tend to himself. 

The Cat foraged tirelessly. Sometimes he 
12 



THE CAT 



was gone for days together, and at first the 
man used to be terrified, thinking he would 
never return; then he would hear the fa- 
miliar cry at the door, and stumble to his 
feet and let him in. Then the two would 
dine together, sharing equally; then the Cat 
would rest and purr, and finally sleep in the 
man's arms. 

Towards spring the game grew plentiful ; 
more wild little quarry were tempted out of 
their homes, in search of love as well as food. 
One day the Cat had luck — a rabbit, a par- 
tridge, and a mouse. He could not carry 
them all at once, but finally he had them 
together at the house door. Then he cried, 
but no one answered. All the mountain 
streams were loosened, and the air was full 
of the gurgle of many waters, occasionally 
pierced by a bird-whistle. The trees rustled 
with a new sound to the spring wind ; there 
was a flush of rose and gold-green on the 
breasting surface of a distant mountain seen 
through an opening in the wood. The tips 
of the bushes were swollen and glistening 
red, and now and then there was a flower; 
but the Cat had nothing to do with flowers. 
He stood beside his booty at the house door, 
and cried and cried with his insistent triumph 
13 



UNDERSTUDIES 



and complaint and pleading, but no one came 
to let him in. Then the Cat left his little 
treasures at the door, and went around to 
the back of the house to the pine-tree, and 
was up the trunk with a wild scramble, 
and in through his little window, and down 
through the trap to the room, and the man 
was gone. 

The Cat cried again — that cry of the ani- 
mal for human companionship which is one 
of the sad notes of the world; he looked in 
all the corners; he sprang to the chair at 
the window and looked out; but no one 
came. The man was gone, and he never 
came again. 

The Cat ate his mouse out on the turf be- 
side the house ; the rabbit and the partridge 
he carried painfully into the house, but the 
man did not come to share them. Finally, 
in the course of a day or two, he ate them 
up himself ; then he slept a long time on the 
bed, and when he waked the man was not 
there. 

Then the Cat went forth to his hunting- 
grounds again, and came home at night with 
a plump bird, reasoning with his tireless 
persistency in expectancy that the man 
would be there; and there was a light in the 
14 



THE CAT 



window, and when he cried his old master 
opened the door and let him in. 

His master had strong comradeship with 
the Cat, but not affection. He never patted 
him like that gentler outcast, but he had a 
pride in him and an anxiety for his welfare, 
though he had left him alone all winter with- 
out scruple. He feared lest some misfortune 
might have come to the Cat, though he was 
so large of his kind, and a mighty hunter. 
Therefore, when he saw him at the door in all 
the glory of his glossy winter coat, his white 
breast and face shining like snow in the sun, 
his own face lit up with welcome, and the Cat 
embraced his feet with his sinuous body vi- 
brant with rejoicing purrs. 

The Cat had his bird to himself, for his mas- 
ter had his own supper already cooking on 
the stove. After supper the Cat's master took 
his pipe., and sought a small store of tobacco 
which he had left in his hut over winter. He 
had thought often of it; that and the Cat 
seemed something to come home to in the 
spring. But the tobacco was gone; not a 
dust left. The man swore a little in a grim 
monotone, which made the profanity lose its 
customary effect. He had been, and was, a 
hard drinker; he had knocked about the 
15 



UNDERSTUDIES 



world until the marks of its sharp corners 
were on his very soul, which was thereby 
calloused, until his very sensibility to loss 
was dulled. He was a very old man. 

He searched for the tobacco with a sort of 
dull combativeness of persistency; then he 
stared with stupid wonder around the room. 
Suddenly many features struck him as being 
changed. Another stove -lid was broken; 
an old piece of carpet was tacked up over a 
window to keep out the cold; his fire- wood 
was gone. He looked, and there was no oil 
left in his can. He looked at the coverings 
on his bed ; he took them up, and again he 
made that strange remonstrant noise in his 
throat. Then he looked again for his tobacco. 

Finally he gave it up. He sat down be- 
side the fire, for May in the mountains is 
cold ; he held his empty pipe in his mouth, 
his rough forehead knitted, and he and the 
Cat looked at each other across that impas- 
sable barrier of silence which has been set 
between man and beast from the creation of 
the world. 



THE MONKEY 



THE MONKEY 

THE monkey lived in his little den un- 
der the counter at the Bird - Fancier's. 
He was the only monkey there. It was a 
somewhat gloomy little shop, and the Mon- 
key lived so far towards the back of it that 
he was seldom seen. Even the children did 
not often spy him out, and the most of their 
attention was concentrated upon the canaries, 
the parrots, the Angora cats, the white mice, 
and the rabbits. The canaries were more 
in evidence than the other inhabitants. The 
rabbits, of course, had nothing to say, and 
neither had the white mice. The parrots were 
either too sulky or desired exclusive stages 
for the exercise of their talents to say much. 
As for the Angora cats, they seemed cowed, 
possibty by their helplessness in the presence 
of such numbers of their natural prey. But 
the canaries were indomitable. Their wood- 
en cages were small for their feathered bodies, 
19 



UNDERSTUDIES 



but no bars could hold their songs, which 
floated in illimitable freedom forth into the 
city street. The Monkey seldom raised his 
voice at all. When he did, it had a curious 
effect. As a rule, people looked everywhere 
except at him for the source of it. It had a 
strange, far-off quality, perhaps from its nat- 
ural assimilation with such widely different 
scenes. Of a right it belonged to the night 
chorus of a tropical jungle, and was a stray 
note from it, as out of place as anything could 
well be in this nearness to commonplaceness 
and civilization. 

It was very dark in the Monkey's den. He 
peered out at every new sound, at every new 
step and voice, with his two yellow circles 
of eyes, which were bright with a curious 
blank brightness ; they seemed not to have 
the recognition of intelligence until the ob- 
ject was within a certain distance. 

The Monkey stayed for the greater part 
of his time in a swing fixed in the middle of 
his cage. He crouched thereon, folding his 
arms around the wires by which it was sus- 
pended. He crossed his hands upon his 
breast, and leaned his head forward in an 
attitude of contemplation. He might have 
been half asleep, and he might have been 
20 



THE MONKEY 



sunken in a reverie. He looked like an epit- 
ome of an Eastern sage. He might have 
been on the home - stretch towards Nirvana 
with that long wrinkle of thought over his 
closed eyes, and that inscrutable, unsmiling 
width of mouth, and unquestioning bend of 
back. 

The Bird-Fancier was something of a think- 
er, and formed his own deductions from what 
he saw. From living so long with these 
little creatures below the staff, which never 
met his questions with intelligible answers, 
he had come to theorize. He was an old man 
and not acquainted with books. He had 
his own conception concerning the Monkey 
and the rest, unwritten, but not unspoken 
to a choice few. 

One to whom he divulged his theories was 
his old wife, who lived with him in the little 
tenement over the shop; one was an old 
woman cousin of hers, who lived with them 
and worked for her board ; and one was the 
Boy. Not one of the three had the least un- 
derstanding of anything which he said. If 
it was in the daytime, the wife and the old 
cousin went on with their work of cleaning 
the bird-cages, and the Boy stood before 
the Monkey's cage. If it was in the even- 
21 



UNDERSTUDIES 

ing, the old cousin knitted, for she was never 
idle, and the old wife dozed in her chair, and 
the Boy was of course not there, as he 
only stopped in the shop on his way to and 
from school. The Bird-Fancier had no more 
audience than if he had been himself an in- 
habitant of some distant jungle, and removed 
by force to a cage of civilization; but that 
did not disturb him at all. A true theorizer 
needs no sympathy unless he has an over- 
weening conceit, and the Bird-Fancier was 
modest. He talked on, and never knew that 
he had no intelligent listeners. "Tell ye 
what it is/' he would say, leaning back in 
his chair, with his eyes fixed as upon some 
far-off teacher, "I have thought it all out. 
It's simple enough when you know. You've 
all seen how berries and flowers run out. 
My brother Solomon, he had a beautiful 
strawberry - bed, berries as big as ducks' 
eggs, and the next year they had run out, 
not much bigger than pease. And my broth- 
er Solomon he had an asparagus-bed served 
him the same way; and you all know how 
pansies run out, till they get back to violets. 
All those little things in the shop are men 
and women run out. They ain't the begin- 
ning, as 1 have heard some say they believed, 

22 



THE MONKEY 

but they are the end. When a man dies, 
suppose he hasn't lived just the best kind of 
a life, but suppose he hasn't been wicked, 
not enough to be burned alive in fire and 
brimstone to all eternity, but suppose he 
ain't fitted to go into a higher sphere, sup- 
pose he wouldn't be happy there, let alone 
anything else; suppose he's just sort of no- 
account and little, not bad enough for hell, 
but not great enough for heaven, but there he 
is, and he's got to be somewhere. Well, 
souls that don't go straight to heaven or hell 
have got to go again into bodies ; there ain't 
any keeping of them apart; might as well 
try to keep the three things that go to make 
up air apart. Into bodies those little souls 
have got to go, but they've got so much 
smaller through living no-account lives that 
they won't fit human bodies, so into the cats, 
and the birds, and the monkeys, and all the 
rest they go. They are folks run out. They 
are the end, or they will be when they finally 
die out, and all the animal races do. Take 
that Monkey. Just look at him. He's 
thousands of years old. He is just as likely 
as not one of the Bible Pharaohs run out. 
See him ! When he looks up because he 
hears a noise, that noise brings back things 
23 



UNDERSTUDIES 



to that Monkey that date from the foundation 
of the earth. There's what's left of some- 
thing more'n you and 1 have ever known in 
that little head of his. Look at the way he 
uses his little hands! How did he learn to 
do that? 1 tell ye there is the key to Genesis 
and Revelation in that little Monkey, if any- 
body knew how to use it." 

Perhaps because the Bird-Fancier regarded 
the Monkey in such philosophical fashion 
he did not care for him as a pet, but in fact 
he made pets of none of the little creatures in 
his shop. He regarded them all simply from 
a philosophical and financial point of view. 
He kept them well fed and clean, and sold 
them with alacrity whenever he was able. 
Then he forgot all about them. As for the 
old wife and the cousin, they were on a higher 
range of stupidity than the animals, and won- 
dered at the other women who came into the 
shop and talked to the birds and cats as if 
they were children. They themselves would 
never have talked in such fashion to children. 

So it happened that the Monkey had no 
real friend except the Boy. The Boy loved 
him with devotion, and he proved it. He 
saved every bit of his scanty pocket-money 
to buy delicacies for the Monkey — fruit and 
24 



THE MONKEY 



loaf-sugar and peanuts. He was very fond 
of sweets himself, and also of fruit, but he 
seldom tasted any except when the Monkey 
refused it. Then he ate it, and found it sweet 
with the added sweet of generosity. 

The Boy was a student at the high-school, 
and not considered a promising one. In 
fact, he lagged behind all his classes, and 
had entered the school only after repeated 
trials. He was a saturnine boy, with a face 
not unlike the Monkey's own, with a curi- 
ously narrow height of forehead, and long 
upper lip, and bright brown eyes. He had 
outgrown his clothes, and his trousers and 
jacket sleeves were too short, and he moved 
with hitches of discomfort because of their 
tightness. He came of a decent family, to 
whom the unnecessary spending of money 
was an unwritten prohibitory command- 
ment. The father was a clerk on a small sal- 
ary ; there were two daughters, employed in 
stores. The Boy had no mates among his 
companions at school. He was as stupid 
at sports as at lessons, and his saturninity 
was against him. 

The Boy's only pleasures and recreations 
were his calls upon the Monkey at the Bird- 
Fancier's shop. He stopped on his way to 
25 



UNDERSTUDIES 

and from school, and he usually secured a 
few minutes at the noon intermission. He 
would pass by the canaries and the parrots 
and the rabbits, and he had a deeply rooted 
aversion for the Angora cats. Straight to 
the Monkey's little den he would go, crouch 
down before it, and begin a curious, silent, 
mouthing motion of his face. Then the Mon- 
key would raise himself alertly, dart to the 
side of his cage nearest the Boy, and respond 
with an exactly similar motion. Now and 
then he would reach out one little hairy hand 
and it would cling around the Boy's fingers 
like a baby's, and all the time the two kept 
up that silent, mouthing communication, 
which meant Heaven alone knew what to 
the Monkey or the Boy. The Boy was the 
only one whom the Monkey ever noticed in 
such wise. No matter what were the blan- 
dishments of any other visitor, he would do 
no more than sit upon his swing, rub his 
hands aimlessly, and stare over the visitor's 
shoulder, as if he saw his shadow instead of 
his personality. But for the Boy he always 
made that lithe dart to the side of his cage, 
and began that silent mouthing. The Boy 
and the Monkey looked ridiculously alike at 
those times, and the Bird-Fancier used to 
26 



THE MONKEY 



eye them with shrewdness, but no mirth. 
Sometimes he told his nodding old wife and 
her industrious cousin in the evening that 
he believed that the Boy was kind of running 
out and proving his theory. Once he asked 
the Boy why he did not buy the Monkey; 
but the price was fifteen dollars, and the 
Boy could as soon have purchased an ele- 
phant. 

One day the Boy brought a little looking- 
glass and fastened it to the side of the Mon- 
key's cage. Some one had told him that 
monkeys were very cunning with looking- 
glasses; but the result was somewhat pa- 
thetic, and strengthened the Bird-Fancier in 
his theory. ''He remembers the time when 
there was something at the back of the look- 
ing-glass, or he wouldn't act the way he does/' 
he told his nodding wife and her illustrious 
cousin. The Monkey was wont to make a 
sudden dart at his reflection in the looking- 
glass, and stretch out both poor little arms 
past it in a piteous, futile effort of embrace. 
Then he would retreat forlornly to his perch. 
Sometimes the Boy got on the other side of 
the glass and grasped the little outreaching 
hands, and that seemed to satisfy the Mon- 
key to a certain extent. 

27 



UNDERSTUDIES 

Towards night the Monkey became thor- 
oughly alert. Life tingled in every nerve 
and muscle of his little hairy body. He was 
silent as ever, but he swung himself from end 
to end of his cage with curious doublings 
and undoublings. Doubled, he looked like 
a little man ; undoubted, there was a sudden 
revelation of a beast. He clung to the wires ; 
he revealed his chest, which was a beautiful 
blue color ; the frown over his yellow eyes in- 
creased ; he reached out for everything near 
his cage. If by any chance he could catch 
hold of anything, he was rejoiced. 

He was never let out of his cage. He was 
a gentle monkey, but his owner had a per- 
fect faith in his desire for mischief. 

There was one superb black and white An- 
gora cat which had the liberty of the shop 
and was not confined in a cage, and he used 
sometimes, though at a wary distance, to 
pass the Monkey's cell. Then the Mon- 
key broke silence. He chattered with rage, 
he reached out a wiry little claw to incred- 
ible distances. Once he tweaked the cat's 
ear, and it fled, spitting. "That Monkey 
would kill the Cat if he got loose/' said 
the Bird - Fancier, and the Monkey would 
indeed have been rejoiced to kill the Cat. He 
28 



THE MONKEY 

would also have been rejoiced to kill some 
of the other inhabitants of the shop, though 
not so much because he hated them as be- 
cause of the longing for destruction which 
was in his blood. It was hard for a thing 
used to the wild liberty of the jungle to be 
kept in a little den under the counter of a 
city shop. In the jungle he could at least 
have torn leaves to shreds, he could have 
swung from bough to bough, festooning 
himself in wonderful leaping curves of life, 
he could have killed those things which were 
weaker than himself, or have fled chattering 
with futile rage before those which were 
stronger, or he could have died in unequal 
combat. It would have been something to 
have had the liberty of death. The deadly 
monotony of his life wrought up the gentle 
little creature to the point of madness when 
night came on. He was, as it were, choking 
for liberty. He glared forth at the canaries 
and the rabbits, he showed all his teeth at the 
Bird-Fancier when the old man gave him 
the banana which was his nightly meal, 
and clutched it through the wires with vicious 
greed. Then he would tear off the rind, and 
so doing catch a glimpse of the monkey in 
the looking-glass, and drop his supper, and 
29 



UNDERSTUDIES 



spring for him, and reach out those pathetic 
little empty arms. 

"He is the gentlest monkey 1 ever saw/' 
said the Bird -Fancier; "but for all that, 
I wouldn't let him loose in the shop." 

The Bird-Fancier had owned the Monkey 
about a year, when one night, through some 
oversight, the cage door was left unfastened, 
and the Monkey escaped. He worked at the 
catch for a long time, and at last it yielded, 
and he was free. 

It was about two o'clock in the morning, 
and the full moonlight lay in the shop, and 
besides that was the white glare of electricity 
from across the street. It was so light that 
occasionally a canary thought it was day 
and woke and chirped, and the parrots stirred 
uneasily, and shrieked or laughed. 

The Monkey slipped out of his cage, and the 
greatest joy which he had ever known was 
upon him. He was a vibration of liberty; 
not a nerve in his little body but thrilled with 
the utmost delight of life and freedom. He 
went about the shop with long lopes. He 
did not look so much like a little man as like 
a beast. The beautiful black and white 
Angora cat was sleeping peacefully on top 
of the white -mice cage, and the Monkey 
30 



THE MONKEY 

spied him, and made one leap for his back. 
Then he rode him furiously around the shop, 
winding his wiry arms in a strangling em- 
brace around his neck, but the Cat escaped 
by a wild plunge through the window, and 
the Monkey slid off. He could have followed, 
but he had other things to attend to. He 
flew at a little golden ball of sleeping canary 
in his tiny cage, then at another, and another, 
then at the gold-fishes. The parrots he let 
alone, after he had shrewdly eyed their hooked 
beaks. He had thoughts of the rabbits which 
stood aloof in their cages with dilated pink 
eyes of terror, and supplicating hang of paws, 
and quivering nostrils, but they were as large 
as the Monkey, and he had no knowledge as 
to their powers of defence ; besides, he could 
not easily get at them. But he loved to pull 
the gold-fishes out of their crystal bowls 
and watch them gasp on the floor, and 
he enjoyed the flutterings of the canary- 
birds. 

It was quite a long time before the cousin 
up-stairs awoke. She woke first, because she 
was the lightest sleeper. Then she spoke 
to the Bird-Fancier, and told him that some- 
thing was wrong in the shop, and all three 
hurried down, thinking it was fire. But 
31 



/ 



UNDERSTUDIES 

it was only a little spark of liberty let loose 
to work its own will. 

The Monkey had wrought considerable 
destruction; several canaries would never 
trill again, and a number of gold-fishes lay 
strewn about the floor. The Bird-Fancier 
whipped the Monkey back to his cage, and 
fastened the door, and the little animal 
caught sight of his reflection in the looking- 
glass and darted towards it with outstretched 
arms. 

"That Monkey has destroyed more than 
he is worth/' the Bird-Fancier told his wife 
and her cousin. " There is no profit in keep- 
ing monkeys/' 

The next morning he gave the Monkey 
his breakfast as usual, and said nothing by 
way of reproach, being alive to the absurd 
futility of it. But he looked at him, and the 
Monkey showed all his teeth, and clutched 
his little dish of bread and milk and flung it 
on the floor of his den. 

When the Boy came in on his way to school 
the Bird-Fancier, contrary to his custom, 
waxed loquacious. He pointed to the bodies 
of the dead canaries and the gold-fishes. 
"See what your Monkey has done in the 
night/' he said. 

32 



THE MONKEY 



The Boy looked soberly at the dead birds 
and the fishes, then at the man. 

"He has killed more than he is worth/' 
said the Bird-Fancier. 

Then the cousin, who was cleaning the 
cage of one of the dead canaries, piped up in 
a slender, shrill voice, not unlike a bird's: 
"Yes, only see! And if I hadn't woke just 
as I did, he would have killed the whole shop- 
ful. Better leave monkeys in their woods 
where they belong." 

The Boy looked from one to the other, but 
he said nothing. Then he went as usual to 
the Monkey's den, and the Monkey came to 
the side of it, and the two mouthed at each 
other silently with perfect understanding. 
When the Boy was leaving the shop the 
Bird-Fancier stopped him. He had been 
having a whispered consultation with his 
wife. 

"See here," he said; "if you want that 
Monkey, you can have him." The Boy 
turned pale and stared at him. " I will put 
him in an old parrot-cage," said the Bird- 
Fancier, " and you can stop and get him this 
noon." 

"For nothing?" gasped the Boy. 
"Yes, for nothing," replied the Bird-Fan- 
C 33 



UNDERSTUDIES 



cier. " I am tired of keeping him. Monkeys 
ain't very salable/' 

"For nothing?" repeated the Boy. 

"Yes, you needn't pay a cent/' said the 
Bird-Fancier, looking at him curiously. 

Such an expression of rapture came into 
the Boy's face that it was fairly glorified. 
It was broadened with smiles until it looked 
cherubic. His brown eyes were like stars. 

"Thank you/' he stammered, for he was 
at that time of life when he was ashamed of 
saying thank you. Then he went out, and 
to school, and for the first time in months 
learned his lessons with no effort, and seemed 
to see truths clearly, and not through a fog. 
He had a great happiness to live up to, and 
for some minds happiness is the onty dispeller 
of fogs ; the Boy's was of that sort. 

After school he ran all the way home to 
make sure that the Monkey would be wel- 
come, and that his mother would not refuse 
him shelter, then he went without his din- 
ner to fetch him. 

When the Boy arrived at the Bird -Fan- 
cier's the Monkey was all ready to depart, 
ensconced in the old parrot-cage. The Boy 
went out of the store, dragged to one side 
with the weight of his precious burden, and 
34 



THE MONKEY 



for the first time in his life the ecstasy of pos- 
session was upon him. He had never fairly 
known that he was alive until he had come 
into the ownership of this tiny life of love. 

The Bird-Fancier watched him going down 
the street, and turned to his wife, who was 
stroking the Angora cat, and the cousin, 
who was feeding a canary which had just 
arrived. The Boy, going down the street, 
had his face bent over the Monkey, and the 
two were mouthing to each other. "I am 
right, you may depend upon it," he said. 
" There goes one monkey carrying another. " 



THE SQUIRREL 



THE SQUIRREL 

THE Squirrel lived with his life-long mate 
near the farm-house. He considered 
himself very rich, because he owned an Eng- 
lish walnut-tree. Neither he nor his mate 
had the least doubt that it belonged to them 
and not to the Farmer. There were not many 
like it in the State or the whole country. It 
was a beautiful tree, with a mighty spread 
of branches full of gnarled strength. Near- 
ly every year there was a goodly promise 
of nuts, which never came to anything, so 
far as the people in the farm-house were 
concerned. Every summer the}?' looked 
hopefully at the laden branches, and said 
to each other, u This year we shall have nuts/' 
but there were never any. They could not 
understand it. But they were old people; 
had there been boys in the family, it might 
have been different. Probably they would 
have solved the mystery. It was simple 
39 



UNDERSTUDIES 



enough. The Squirrel and his mate con- 
sidered the nuts as theirs, and appropriated 
them. They loved nuts; they were their 
natural sustenance; and through having 
an unquestioning, though unwitting, be- 
lief in Providence, they considered that nuts 
which grew within their reach were placed 
there for them as a matter of course. There 
were the Squirrels, and there were the nuts. 
No nuts, no Squirrels. The conclusion was 
obvious to such simple intelligences. 

As soon as the nuts were ripe the Squirrel 
and his mate were busy all day, gathering 
the nuts, and then carrying them to their 
little storehouse under the wood - pile. Back 
and forth they sped with such smooth swift- 
ness that it was no more perceptible than 
the passing of a beam of light. 

The Squirrels were very near the color tones 
of the tree, which, moreover, held its leaves 
late; only a boy would have been likely to 
spy them out. 

"It is a strange thing about those nuts," 
the Farmer's Wife often said to her husband, 
peering up at the tree with her dim old eyes, 
and he assented. The old couple were given 
to sitting out on their porch after supper as 
long as the evenings were warm enough, 
40 



THE SaUIRREL 



and it was a late autumn that year. There 
were occasional frosts, but summer-like days 
between. 

The Farmer and his Wife were a fond old 
couple. They had never had any children, 
and the sympathy of their own natures had 
drawn them more closely together through 
the long years. They looked and thought 
alike. If anything, the Wife had the stronger 
nature of the two, but both of them were gen- 
tle, yet with a certain wariness and shrewd- 
ness, not unlike that of the Squirrels. They 
were very careful of their money, and saved 
every penny, and had made considerable 
provision for their old age. They looked 
forward to nothing except perfect peace and 
comfort on this earth for the rest of their lives, 
and as for what would come after — they had 
a religious hope. 

They had always looked at their English 
walnut-tree and speculated as to what could 
have become of the nuts, but the speculation 
did not disturb them at all. They took things 
which had happened for some time easily, be- 
ing gently conservative to the bone. " Seems 
as if them nuts must drop off that tree and 
be picked up/' said the Farmer, "but there 
ain't no boys/' 

41 



UNDERSTUDIES 



"No, there ain't no boys/' said his Wife. 

Sometimes the Farmer used to walk about 
under the tree and look on the ground for 
fallen nuts, and his Wife did likewise, but 
they never found any. They were not 
aware of four of the keenest eyes of watch- 
fulness and wariness in the whole world in- 
tent upon them from some corner of hiding. 
Now and then they saw one of the Squirrels 
slipping along the stone wall, and looked at 
him with that interest which always attaches 
to a Squirrel, perhaps because the swiftness 
of his passing from observation gives him 
a certain rarity and preciousness. Some- 
times the Farmer's Wife observed one sitting 
upright on the wall, holding a nut in his fore- 
paws and nibbling at it boldly. " Maybe he 
has got one of our walnuts," said she. 

"He couldn't get the whole treeful," said 
the Farmer. 

"No, he couldn't," assented the Wife. 

The capacity of the Squirrels for excelling 
in their given walk of life was as much of a 
secret to them as was theirs to the Squirrels. 

It was in the bright, clear morning that 
they oftenest caught glimpses of the Squir- 
rels, for the morning was their period of full- 
est life and activity. Then, when the smell 
42 



THE SaUIRREL 



of passing leaves and ripened fruit was in 
the air, and the grass was white and crisp 
with something between frost and dew, did 
the Squirrels feel their joy of life to the ut- 
most. They darted hither and yon, mostly 
unobserved, since they could fairly outspeed 
human observation. Not a nut that fell 
from the tree escaped them. They went to 
and fro between the tree and their hoard 
under the wood-pile. They were very rich 
indeed. That year there had been nearly 
a bushel of nuts on the English walnut-tree, 
and they garnered them all. The same de- 
light in their providence, and sense of self- 
gratulation, and security as to the future, 
were over them as over the old couple in the 
farm-house. They too looked forward to 
peace and comfort on earth; as for the un- 
known future, they did not dream it existed. 
They had no religious hope, but their utter 
lack of questioning made them too trustful 
for any anxiety. They had no premonitions 
of a future stage when there might be no stone 
walls for running along, and no nut-trees, 
and yet Squirrels. Their needs and their 
supplies w r ere entireties not to be separated 
by any conception of theirs. 

When they had garnered every nut from 
43 



UNDERSTUDIES 

the English walnut-tree they were indeed an 
opulent pair. They were, of course, acquaint- 
ed with other Squirrels, but none of them 
approached themselves in point of richness. 
None of the others had English walnuts, 
and none had such a plentiful store. They 
looked forward to a winter of fatness and lux- 
ury and love, for the two little creatures loved 
each other as faithfully as did the old couple 
in the farm-house. None of the other Squir- 
rels knew of their hiding-place under the 
wood-pile, nobody had discovered the cunning 
passage which led to it. It was the last 
of October, and they felt perfectly secure. 
They had reached that point, so seldom 
reached by either Men or Squirrels, when 
care as to material things is over. Then 
came the day of their downfall. 

The Farmer's Wife thought that the wood- 
pile should be taken down, and the wood split 
and stored in the shed before winter set in, 
and the Farmer obediently began the task. 
It was not a large pile, and he was too thrifty 
to hire help. He chopped away patiently 
day after day, but it was a long time before 
the Squirrels fairly took alarm for the safety 
of their store. They had grown to believe 
in its impregnability, and the impregnability 
44 




"They chattered angrily' 



THE SQJJIRREL 



of their right of possession. They kept out 
of the way while the old man was at work, 
scampering in the autumn woods, enjoying 
themselves, and always with the thought of 
their bountiful provision for the future in 
mind. 

At last they began to grow anxious. They 
hung aloof and chattered angrily. They 
sat on the stone wall with great tails arching 
over their backs, so near that the gentle old 
man thought they must be growing tame, 
and at last the blow fell. 

One morning the Farmer discovered the 
Squirrels' hoard. He went into the house 
and told his Wife. "What d'ye think?" he 
said. " It was them Squirrels that have stole 
all them English walnuts." 

" You don't say so !" said she. 

"Yes, they have. There's nigh a bushel 
of them under the wood-pile." 

"You don't say so!" said she again. 

The old couple went out together and look- 
ed at the winter hoard of the other couple. 

"Well," said the Farmer's Wife, "you'll 
have to get the bushel basket and pick them 
up and bring them into the house, and spread 
them out on the garret floor. It's the first 
time we've ever had any nuts off that tree. 
45 



UNDERSTUDIES 



I declare, them Squirrels have been stealing 
them all this time!" 

The old man hesitated. He was as thrifty 
as his Wife, and had as great a pleasure in 
possessions, but he had more points of view. 
" Seems kind of too bad when they've worked 
so hard/' he remarked. 

" Why is it too bad? Ain't they our nuts?" 
said his Wife, with wonder in her soft eyes. 
" They've stole our nuts." 

"Well," said the old man. 

He got the bushel basket and gathered up 
the nuts. There was distracted, but wary, 
comment from the Squirrels. They skir- 
mished about or the stone wall, and watched 
this run upon their little bank with unavail- 
ing chatters of protest. At this time, if they 
had had faith, they might have lost it. At 
the beginning of winter the Squirrel and his 
mate, no longer young, were thrown upon 
the world penniless, and all their season's 
labor was lost. 

When the nuts were all heaped up on the 
garret floor the old man and his Wife looked 
at them. The old man was still doubtful. 
" It seems most too bad, when they've worked 
so hard, don't it?" he said, with a break in 
his voice. 

4 6 



THE SQUIRREL 



"Ain't they our nuts, and didn't they steal 
them?" returned his Wife. She was as kind- 
ly as her husband, except when it came to 
questions of sheer justice ; then she was piti- 
less. 

But the old man was still anxious. All 
that day he had an eye upon the frenzied 
Squirrels darting hither and thither along 
the wall, with occasional peeps of unbelief 
that the worst was true, at their violated 
storehouse. That night he went down to 
the village store and purchased a bushel of 
shagbarks, and brought them home, leaning 
painfully to one side with their weight. He 
stole out to the wood-pile, all unseen by his 
Wife, and deposited them in the Squirrels' 
hiding-place. The next day, and several 
days after that, he had an attack of rheuma- 
tism and was unable to chop wood. 

Then a light snow came, the first of the 
season, and he said to his Wife that he didn't 
know but it might be just as well to leave the 
rest of that wood-pile for a while, seeing as 
he was so lame in his joints and the wood was 
so wet, and the shed nigh about full anyway. 
And she assented, saying that she guessed 
there was about enough wood in the shed 
to last till spring, and she didn't want him 
47 



UNDERSTUDIES 



to get any more cold, and it cost so much to 
hire help. She suspected nothing about the 
shagbarks and the Squirrels, and the old 
man did not tell her, though he felt guilty. 
He had never been in the habit of concealing 
anything from his faithful old helpmeet, 
not even his good deeds. But there are some 
deeds which are too intimate with one's self 
and God for even the listening ear of human 
love, and too much a part of the soul for even 
wedlock to unveil. Then, too, the old man 
was afraid that his Wife would think that 
he had been extravagant. 

That winter the Farmer used often to gaze 
out of the window from behind his Wife's 
blooming row of geraniums, and think with 
a sensation which was like a warmth in his 
soul how the Squirrels were supplied with 
plenty for their needs until spring. But he 
crept out one day when his Wife was away 
and investigated, and not a nut was in the 
storehouse. He straightened his rheumatic 
back painfully and stared at the little empty 
cellar. Then the chatter of a Squirrel struck 
his dull ears. He looked for a long time, 
and finally spied him sitting on the stone wall, 
eying him with the wariest eyes of incipient 
motion, his tail already stiffened for flight. 
48 



THE SQJJIRREL 



''Wonder if that's one of 'em?" thought 
the old man. He could not know that the 
Squirrel and his mate had moved all their 
new store of nuts to another hiding-place in 
the woods at the foot of a birch-tree, because 
they were filled with suspicion and distrust 
of him. His restitution was nothing. What 
were shagbarks to English walnuts? They 
were of an inferior quality anyway, and how 
did they alter the fact of the appropriation 
of the others? 

The gentle old man whistled. "Be you 
the thief?" he asked. 

Then the Squirrel began to chatter fiercely 
at the Farmer, though he was always ready 
to fly at his slightest motion. The frosty air 
seemed to fairly shiver and shake with that 
tiny volley of accusation. There was the 
thief who had stolen the store which had been 
provided for himself and his mate by the 
Providence which had created them. There 
was the thief who had sinned doubly, both 
against them and that Providence which had 
shaped both their need and their supply. 

Finally the old man went back to his house, 
and the Squirrel slipped swiftly away along 
the stone wall towards his secret dwelling. 

When the Farmer's Wife returned, she pro- 
D 49 



UNDERSTUDIES 



posed cracking some of the English walnuts. 
"They must be dry enough now/' she said. 
So the old man brought down some from the 
garret, and fell to work. " I dun 'no' as I want 
any/' he remarked, as he pounded. " I never 
did care much about nuts anyway, and some- 
how I've always felt as if we'd stole the 
Squirrels' after they'd worked so hard." 

"How silly you be!" said his Wife, but 
she looked at him lovingly. " You were al- 
ways too tender-hearted for your own good. 
Talk about stealing, it was the Squirrels 
that stole our nuts." 

But the Squirrel and his mate, whose an- 
cestors had held the whole land, and the fruit 
thereof, in feudal tenure to the Creator of it 
all, since the beginning of things, had dif- 
ferent views. They were in the woods cham- 
ping their supper of shagbarks, and often 
finding a wormy one, and they considered 
that the Farmer had stolen their nuts. 



THE LOST DOG 



THE LOST DOG 



THE dog was speeding, nose to the ground ; 
he had missed his master early in the 
morning; now it was late afternoon, but at 
last he thought he was on his track. He went 
like a wind, his ears pointed ahead, his slen- 
der legs seemingly flat against his body; 
he was eagerness expressed by a straight 
line of impetuous motion. He had had noth- 
ing to eat all day ; he was spent with anxiety 
and fatigue and hunger; but now, now, he 
believed he was on his master's track, and 
all that was forgotten. 

But all at once he stopped, his tail dropped 
between his legs, and he skulked away from 
the false track in an agony of mortifica- 
tion and despair. It had ended abruptly at 
a street corner, where the man had taken 
a carriage. He doubled and went back for 
his life to the last place where he had seen 
his master in the morning. It was a crowd- 
53 



UNDERSTUDIES 



cd corner, and the people were passing and 
repassing, weaving in and out, a great con- 
course of humanit}^ following the wonderful 
maze of their own purposes. 

The dog sniffed at the heels of one and an- 
other. He followed and retreated ; he dodged 
and skulked. He was a thing of abject apol- 
ogy, and felt no resentment at a kick when 
he got in the way of that tide of human prog- 
ress. The dog without his master was like 
modesty without raiment, like a body with- 
out a soul. Without his master he was not 
even a dog; he was a wandering intelli- 
gence only, and had fallen below his inher- 
itance of dog-wit. 

He yelped now and then, but his yelp would 
have been unintelligible to another of his 
species. He put his nose to the ground; 
the confusion of scents and his despair made 
him, as it were, deaf in his special acuteness. 
He blindly ran after this one and that one. 
Now and then he heard a voice which made 
his heart leap, and was after the owner at a 
bound, but it was never his master. 

The city lights were blazing out and the 
raw night settling down ; on the corner were 
two steady interweaving streams to the right 
and left of people going homeward, and all 
54 



THE LOST DOG 



with the thought of shelter and food and 
fire and rest. 

Finally the dog fastened his despairing 
eyes upon a man coming around the corner, 
and he followed him. He knew he was not 
his master, but there was that about him 
which awakened that wisdom of dependence 
which had come down to him through gen- 
erations. He knew that here was a man 
who could love a dog. 

So he followed him on and on, moving 
swiftly at heel, keeping well in shadow, his 
eyes fixed anxiously upon the man's back, 
ready to be off at the first symptom of his 
turning. But the man did not see him until 
he had reached his home, which was a mile 
beyond the city limits, quite in the country. 

He went up to a solitary house set in a deep 
yard behind some fir-trees. There were no 
lights in the windows. The man drew a 
key from his pocket and unlocked the door. 
Then he saw the dog. 

He looked hard at the dog, and the dog 
looked piteously at him. The dog wagged 
his tail in frantic circles of conciliation. The 
full moon was up, and there was a street- 
lamp, so the two could see each other quite 
distinctly. Both the dog and the man were 
55 



UNDERSTUDIES 



thoroughbreds. The dog saw a man, young, 
in shabby clothes, which he wore like a gen- 
tleman, with a dark and clear-cut face. The 
man saw a dog in a splendid suit of tawny 
gold hair, with the completeness of his pure 
blood in every line and curve of his body. 
The man whistled; the dog pressed closer 
to him; his eyes upon his face were like a 
woman's. The man stopped and patted the 
dog on his tawny gold head, then entered 
the house and whistled again, and the dog 
followed him in. 

That evening the dog lay on an old skin 
rug before the hearth-fire, but uneasily, for 
his new master was doing something which 
disturbed him. He was singing with a mag- 
nificent tenor voice, and the dog was vaguely 
injured in his sensibilities by music. At 
first he howled, but, when the man bade him 
be quiet, he protested no longer, except for 
an occasional uneasy roll of an eye or twitch 
of an ear at a new phrase. 

The dog had had a good supper; he had 
eaten rather more than the man. There 
was plenty of wood on the hearth, though 
the reserve was not large. But the man 
who sang had the optimism of a brave soul 
which, when it is striving to its utmost, can- 

56 




"Both the dog and the man were thoroughbreds" 



I 



THE LOST DOG 



not face the image of defeat without a feeling 
of disgrace. 

He was a great singer; he had been born 
to it, and he had worked for it. Some day the 
material fruits of it — the milk and honey of 
prosperity — would be his; in the meantime 
there was his voice and his piano ; and while 
there was wood, let his hearth-fire blaze mer- 
rily ; and while he had a crust, let him share 
it with a dog that was needy. 

Now and then the man in the intervals of 
his singing patted the dog, and spoke to 
him caressingly; and the dog looked at 
him with a gratitude which reached immen- 
sity through its unspeakableness. 

The dog wore no collar, and the man mar- 
velled at that. 

It was midnight when there came a step 
at the door and a ring, and the dog was on 
his feet with a volley of barks. He was 
ready to charge a whole army for the sake 
of this man whom he had known only a few 
hours. But in this case he would have at- 
tacked, not an enemy who threatened his 
master's safety, but a friend who brought 
him wealth and fame. 

When the man returned to the room with 
the out-of-doors cold clinging to him, his face 
57 



UNDERSTUDIES 



was radiant, jubilant. The tenor who had 
been singing in the opera-house had broken 
his engagement, and the manager had come 
for him. 

He told the dog, for lack of another com- 
panion, and the dog reared himself on two 
legs, like a man, in his ecstasy of joyful com- 
radeship, and placed his paws on the man's 
shoulders and licked his young face. Then 
the man sat down at his piano, and sang 
over and over his part in the opera, and the 
dog gave only one low howl under his breath, 
then lay down on the skin rug, with twitching 
ears and back. 

That night the man's golden age began, 
and the dog shared it. His new master had 
his share of superstition, and regarded the 
old saying that a dog following one brought 
luck, and had, besides his love for the animal, 
a species of gratitude and sense of obligation. 

In the days of luxurious living which fol- 
lowed, the dog was to the front with the man. 
He rode with him in his softlv cushioned car- 
riage to the opera-house, and slept in his 
dressing-room while the music and the ap- 
plause went on. Occasionally he would 
make a faint protesting howl when a loud 
strain reached his ears. The dog loved the 

58 



THE LOST DOG 



man for love's sake alone; that which won 
the adulation of men was his trial. He loved 
him, not for his genius, but in spite of it. 

The dog in this new life grew to his full 
possibility of beauty and strength. His 
coat shone like satin ; he was a radiant out- 
come of appreciation and good food; but 
palmier days still were to come. 

One day the tenor brought home a wife; 
then the dog for the first time knew what it 
was to be the pet of a woman. Then he wore 
a great bow of blue satin on his silver collar, 
and often his coat smelled of violets. 

The new wife was adorable; the touch of 
her little soft hands on the dog's head was 
ecstasy; and she did not sing, but talked 
to him, and praised him with such sweet flat- 
tery that he used to roll his eyes at her like a 
lover, and thrust an appealing paw upon her 
silken lap. 

Then he grew to an appreciation of him- 
self; all his abjectness vanished. He be- 
came sure of himself and of love. He w r as 
a happy dog except for one thing. Always 
in his sleep he searched for his old lost mas- 
ter. He was never on the street but down 
went his nose to the ground for the scent of 
those old footsteps. 

59 



UNDERSTUDIES 



And one day, when he had been with his 
new friends two years, he found him. His 
mistress's carriage was waiting, and he be- 
side it, one day in spring when they were 
selling daffodils and violets on the street, 
and doves were murmuring around the church 
towers, and the sparrows clamorous, and 
everything which had life, in which hope 
was not quite dead, was flying, and darting, 
and blossoming, and creeping out into the 
sunlight. 

Then the dog saw his old master coming 
down the street, scraping the pavement with 
his heavy feet — an old man, mean and mean- 
ly clad, with no grace of body or soul, unless 
it might have been the memory of, and re- 
gret for, the dog. Him he had loved after 
the best fashion which he knew. This splen- 
did brute thing, with his unquestioning de- 
votion, had kept alive in him his piteous 
remnant of respect for self, and had been to 
him more than any one of his own kind, who 
had put him to shame, and sunk him in the 
lowest depths of ignominy by forcing his 
realization of it. 

The dog stood still, with ears erect and tail 
stiff, then was after his old master with a 
mighty bound. At first the man cursed and 
60 



THE LOST DOG 



kicked at him, then looked again and swore 
'twas his old dog, and stroked his head with 
that yellow clutch of avarice for his own pos- 
session and his own profit, rather than af- 
fection, which was the best his poor soul 
could compass. 

But the dog followed him, faithful not only 
to his old master, but to a nobler thing, the 
faithfulness which was in himself — and may- 
be by so doing gained another level in the 
spiritual evolution of his race. 



THE PARROT 



THE PARROT 



""THE parrot was a superb bird — a vo- 
ciferous symmetry of green and gold 
and ruby red, with eyes like jewels, with 
their identical irresponsibility of fire, with 
a cling, not of loving dependence, but of 
ruthless insistence, to his mistress's hand, 
or the wires of his cage, and a beak of such 
a fine curve of cruelty as was never excelled. 

The parrot's mistress was a New England 
woman, with the influence of a stern training 
strong upon her, and yet with a rampant 
force of individuality constantly at war with 
it. She lived alone, except for the parrot, 
in a sharply angled village house, looking 
upon the world with a clean, repellent glare 
of windows and white broadside of wall, in a 
yard whose grass seemed as if combed al- 
ways by one wind, so evenly slanted was 
it. There was a decorously trimmed rose- 
bush on either side of the front door, and 
E 65 



UNDERSTUDIES 

one elm-tree at the gate which leaned de- 
cidedly to the south with all its green sweep 
of branches, and always in consequence 
gave the woman a vague and unreasoning 
sense of immorality. 

Inside, the house showed stiff parallelo- 
grams of white curtains, and dull carpets 
threadbare with cleanliness, and little pools 
of reflected light from the polished surfaces 
of old tables and desks, and one glass-doored 
bookcase filled with works on divinity bound 
uniformly in rusty black. 

The woman's father had been a Congre- 
gational clergyman, and this was his old 
library. She had read every book over and 
over with a painful concentration, and after- 
wards admitted her crime of light-minded- 
ness, and prayed to be forgiven, and have 
her soul so wrought upon by grace that she 
might truthfully enjoy these godly publi- 
cations. She had never read a novel; she 
looked upon cards as wiles of the devil; once, 
and once only, had she been to a concert of 
strictly secular music in the town-hall, and 
had felt thereby contaminated for days, 
having a temperament which was strangely 
wrought upon by music, and yet a total 
ignorance of it. She felt guilty under the 
66 



THE PARROT 



influence of all harmonies which did not, 
through being linked to spiritual words, turn 
her soul to thoughts of heaven; and yet 
sometimes, to her sore bewilderment, the 
tunes which she heard in church did not so 
sway her wayward fancy ; and then she ac- 
cused herself of being perverted in her com- 
prehension of good through the influence 
of that worldly concert. 

This woman went nowhere except to 
church, to prayer-meeting, to the village 
store, and once a month to the missionary 
sewing-circle, and to the supper and sociable 
in the evening. She dressed always in black, 
her face was delicately spare, her lips were 
a compressed line of red, and yet she was 
pretty, with a prettiness almost of youth, 
from that undiminished fire of the spirit 
which dwelt within her, as securely caged 
by her training and narrowness of life as 
was the parrot by the strong wires of his 
house. 

The parrot was the one bright thing in 
the woman's life ; he was the link with that 
which was outside her, and yet with that 
which was of her truest inwardness of self. 
This tropical thing, screaming and laugh- 
ing, and shrieking out dissonant words, and 

6 7 



\ 

UNDERSTUDIES 



oftentimes speeches, with a seemingly dia- 
bolical comprehension of the situation, was 
the one note of utter freedom and irrespon- 
sibility in her life. She adored him, but al- 
ways with a sense of guilt upon her. Often 
she said to herself that some judgment would 
come upon her for so loving such a bird, for 
there was in truth about him as much utter 
gracelessness as can be conceived of in one 
of the lower creation. He swore such oaths 
that his mistress would fairly fly out of the 
door with hands to her ears. Always, when 
she saw a caller coming, she would remove 
his cage to a distant room and shut all the 
doors between. She felt that if any one heard 
him sending forth those profane shrieks, 
possibly to his spiritual contamination, she 
might be driven by her sense of duty to have 
the bird put to death. She knew, as she be- 
lieved, that she risked her own soul by listen- 
ing and yet loving, but that she had no cour- 
age to forego. 

As for the parrot, he loved his mistress, 
if he loved anything. He would extend an 
ingratiating but deceitful claw towards her 
between his cage wires whenever she ap- 
proached. If ever she had a torn finger in 
consequence, she made light of it, like any 
6& 




" * Hes coming, Martha ' " 

■ 



\ 



THE PARROT 



wound of love. He would take morsels of 
food from between her thin lips. 

When she talked to him with that lan- 
guage of love which every soul knows by in- 
stinct, and which is intelligible to all who 
are not too deadened and deafened with self, 
he would cock his glittering head and look 
at her with that inscrutable jewel-eye of his. 
Then he would thrust out a claw towards 
her with that insistence which was ruthless, 
and yet not more ruthless than the insistence 
of love, and often say something which con- 
founded her with its apparent wisdom of 
sequence, and then the doubt and the con- 
viction which at once tormented and en- 
raptured her would seize upon her. 

She tried to conceal it from herself, she 
held it as the rankest atheism, she thought 
vaguely of the idols of wood and stone in 
the hymn-book, of Baal, and the golden calf, 
and the witch of Endor, and every forbid- 
den thing which is the antithesis of holiness, 
and yet she could not be sure that her parrot 
had not a soul. Sometimes she wondered 
if she ought to speak of her state of mind 
to the minister, and ask his advice, but she 
shrank from doing that, both because of her 
natural reserve and because he was unmar- 

6 9 



UNDERSTUDIES 



ried, and she knew that people had coupled 
his name with hers. He was of suitable 
age, and it was urged that a match for him 
with the solitary daughter of the former min- 
ister would be eminently appropriate. 

The woman had never considered the pos- 
sibility of such a thing, although she had 
heard of the plan of the parish from many 
a female friend. She had had her stifled 
dreams in her early youth, but she had not 
been one to attract lovers, being perchance 
bound as to her true graces somewhat too 
much after the fashion of her father's old 
divinity books. No man in her whole life 
had ever looked at her with a look of love, and 
she had never heard the involuntary break 
of it in his voice. Sometimes on summer 
evenings, she, sitting by her open window, 
saw village lovers going past with covert 
arms of affection around slim, girlish waists. 
One night she saw, half shrinking from the 
sight, a fond pair standing in the shadow 
of the elm-tree at her gate, and clasped in 
each other's arms, and saw the girl's face 
raised to the young man's for his eager kiss- 
es, the while a murmur of love, like a song 
in an unknown tongue, came to her ears. 

It was a warm night, and the parrot's cage 
70 



THE PARROT 



was slung for coolness on a peg over the win- 
dow, and he shrieked out. with his seemingly 
unholy apprehension of things, "What is 
that? What is that? Do you know what that 
is, Martha ?" Then ended his query with 
such a wild clamor of laughter that the lovers 
at the gate fled, and his mistress, Martha, 
rose and took the bird in. 

She set him on the sitting-room table along 
with the Bible and the Concordance, and 
a neat little pile of religious papers, while 
she lighted a lamp. Then she looked half 
affrightedly, half with loving admiration, 
at the gorgeous thing, swinging himself 
frantically on the ring in his cage. 

Then, swifter than lightning, down on his 
perch he dropped, cast a knowing eye like 
a golden spark at the solitary woman, and 
shrieked out again : 

" What was that? What was that, Martha? 
Martha, Martha, Martha, Martha. Polly 
don't want a cracker; Polly don't want a 
cracker ; Polly will be damned if she eats a 
cracker. You don't want a cracker, do you, 
Martha? Martha, Martha, Martha, want a 
cracker? What was that, Martha? Martha, 
want a cracker? Martha will be damned if 
she eats a cracker. Martha, Martha, Martha ! ' ' 

7 1 



UNDERSTUDIES 

Then the bird was off in such another ex- 
plosion of laughs, thrusting a claw through 
his wires at his mistress, that the house 
rang with them. Martha took the extended 
claw tenderly; she put her pretty, delicate, 
faded face to that treacherous beak; she 
murmured fond words. Then ceased sud- 
denly as she heard a step on the walk, and 
the parrot cried out, with a cry of sharpest 
and most sardonic exultation : 

"He's coming, he's coming, Martha!" 

Then, to Martha's utter horror, before she 
had time to remove the bird, a knock came 
on her front door, which stood open, and 
there was the minister. 

He had called upon her before, in accord- 
ance with his pastoral duty, but seldom, 
and always with his mother, who kept his 
house with him. This time he was alone, 
and there was something new in his manner. 

He was a handsome man, no younger 
than she, but looking younger, with a dash 
of manner which many considered unmin- 
isterial. He would not allow Martha to re- 
move the parrot, though she strove trembling- 
ly to do so, and laughed with a loud peal like 
a boy when the parrot shrieked, to his mis- 
tress's sore discomfiture: 
7^ 



THE PARROT 



"He's come, Martha, damned if he ain't. 
Martha, Martha, where in hell is that old 
cracker?" 

Martha felt as if her hour of retribution 
had come, and she was vaguely and guiltily 
pleased and relieved when the minister not 
only did not seem shocked with the free speak- 
ing of her bird, but was apparently amused. 

She watched him touch the parrot caress- 
ingly, and heard him talk persuasively, 
coaxing him to further speech, and for the 
first time in her life a complete sense of hu- 
man comradeship came to her. 

After a while the parrot resolved himself 
into a gorgeous plumy ball of slumber on 
his perch, then his mistress sat an hour in 
the moonlight with the minister. 

She had put out the lamp at his request, 
timidly, and yet with a conviction that such 
a course must be strictly proper, since it was 
proposed by the minister. 

The two sat near each other at the open 
window, and the soft sweetness of the sum- 
mer night came in, and the influence of the 
moonlight was over them both. The lovers 
continued to stroll past the gate, and a rule 
of sequence holds good in all things. Pres- 
ently, for the first time in her life, this soli- 
73 



/ 

UNDERSTUDIES 

tary woman felt a man's hand clasping her 
own little slender one in her black cashmere 
lap. The minister made no declaration of 
love in words, but the tones of his voice were 
enough. 

When he spoke of exchanging with a neigh- 
boring clergyman in two weeks, the speech 
was set to the melody of a love-song, and 
there was no cheating ears which were at- 
tuned to it, no matter if it had been long in 
coming. 

When the minister took his leave, and 
Martha lighted her lamp again, the parrot 
stirred and woke, and brought that round 
golden eye of his to bear upon her face flushed 
like a girl's, and cried out : 

"Why, Martha! why, Martha! what is 
the matter?" 

Then Martha dropped on her knees be- 
side the cage, and touched the bird's head 
with a finger of tenderest caressing. 

"Oh, you darling, you darling, you pre- 
cious!" she murmured, and began to weep. 
And the parrot did not laugh, but continued 
to eye her. 

"He has come, hasn't he, Martha?" said 
he. 

Then Martha was more than ever inclined 
74 



Why, Martha ! What is the matter f 1 



THE PARROT 



to think that the bird had a soul; still she 
doubted, because of the unorthodoxy of it, 
and the remembrance of man and man alone 
being made in God's own image. 

Still, through having no friend in whom 
to confide her new hope and happiness, the 
parrot became doubly dear to her. Curious- 
ly enough, in the succeeding weeks he was 
not so boisterous, he did not swear so much, 
but would sit watching his mistress as she sat 
dreaming, and now and then he said some- 
thing which seemed inconceivable to her 
simple mind, unless he had a full understand- 
ing of the situation. 

The minister came oftener and oftener; 
he stayed longer. He came home on Sun- 
day nights with her after meeting. He kissed 
her at the door. He always held her little 
hand, which yielded to his with an indescrib- 
ably gentle and innocent maidenliness, while 
he talked about the mission work in foreign 
lands, and always his lightest speech was 
set to that love-melody. 

Martha began to expect to marry him. 
She overlooked her supply of linen. Visions 
of a new silk for a wedding-dress, brown in- 
stead of black, flashed before her eyes. She 
talked more than usual to the parrot in those 
75 



/ 



UNDERSTUDIES 

days, using the words and tone which she 
might have used towards the minister, had 
not the restraints of her New England 
birth and training enclosed her like the wires 
of a cage, and the parrot eyed her with wise 
attentiveness which grew upon him,, only now 
and then uttering one of his favorite oaths. 

Then suddenly the disillusion of the poor 
soul as to her first gospel of love came. She 
went to the sewing - circle one Wednesday 
in early spring, after the minister had been 
to see her for nearly a year, and she wore 
her best black silk, thinking he would be 
there, and she had crimped her hair and 
looked as radiant as a girl when she entered 
the low vestry filled with the discordant gab- 
ble of sewing-women. 

Then she heard the news. It was told 
her with some protest and friendly prepara- 
tion, for everybody had thought that the 
match between herself and the minister was 
as good as made. There was a whispered 
discussion among groups of women, with 
sly eyes upon her face ; then one, who was 
a leader among them, a woman of affectionate 
glibness, approached her, after Martha had 
heard a feminine voice fingering in the out- 
skirts of a sudden hush say : 

7 6 




"She overlooked her supply of linen" 



THE PARROT 



" And she's got on her best silk, too, poor 
thing." 

Martha now looked up, and her radiant 
face paled slowly as the woman began to 
talk to her. The news seemed to smite her 
like some hammer of fate, her brain reeled, 
and her ears rang with it. 

The minister was engaged, and had, in 
fact, gone to be married. He would bring 
his bride home the next week ; another min- 
ister was to occupy his pulpit the next Sun- 
day. He was to marry a woman to whom 
he had been attached for years, but the mar- 
riage had been delayed. 

Martha listened, then suddenly the color 
flashed back into her white cheeks — she had 
stanch blood in her. 

"Well, I am glad to hear it," she said, and 
lied with no compunction for the first time 
in her life, and never repented it. "I have 
always thought it was much better for a min- 
ister to be married," she said. "I have al- 
ways thought that his usefulness would be 
much enhanced. Father used to say so." 
Then she took out her needle and thread and 
went to work with the others. 

The women eyed her furtively, but she 
made no sign of noticing it. When one said 
77 



UNDERSTUDIES 



to her that she had kind of thought that 
maybe the minister was shining up to her, 
she only laughed, and said gently that they 
were very good friends, but there had never 
been a word of anything else between 
them. 

She overheard one woman whisper to an- 
other that, "if Martha was cut up, she would 
deceive the very elect/' and the other reply, 
"that maybe he had told Martha all about 
the woman he was going to marry/' 

Martha stayed as usual to the supper and 
the entertainment. A young couple sat on 
a settee in front of her while some singing 
was going on, and at a tender passage she 
saw the boy furtively press the girl's hand, 
and she set her lips hard. 

But at last she was free to go home, and 
when she had unlocked the door and entered 
her lonely house, down upon the floor in her 
sitting-room she flung herself, with all the 
floodgates of her New England nature open 
at last. She wept and wailed her grief and 
anger aloud like a Southern woman. 

Then in the midst of it all came a wild wail- 
ing cry from the parrot, a cry of uncanny 
sympathy and pain and tenderness outside 
the pale of humanitv. 



THE PARROT 



" Why, Martha ! why, Martha! what's the 
matter?" 

Then the woman rose and went to the cage, 
her delicate face and lips so swollen with 
grief that she was appalling ; she had even 
trailed her best black silk in the mud on her 
way home. She was past the bounds of 
decency in her frenzy of misery. She opened 
the cage door, and the parrot flew out and 
to her slender shoulder, and she sobbed 
out her grief to him amid his protesting 
cries. 

"Poor Martha, why, poor Martha," he 
said, and she felt almost certain that he had 
a soul, and she no longer felt so shocked by 
her leaning towards that belief, but was com- 
forted. 

But all of a sudden the parrot on her shoul- 
der gave a tweak at her hair, and shrieked 
out : 

"That was a damned cracker, Martha," 
and her belief wavered. 

She put him back in his cage and locked 
up her house for the night, and put out her 
lamp and went to bed, but she could not go 
to sleep, for the loss of her old dream of love 
gave the whole world and all life such a hol- 
lowness and emptiness that it was like thun- 
79 



UNDERSTUDIES 



der in her ears, and forced its waking realiza- 
tion upon her. 

All during the next week, if it had not been 
for the parrot, she felt that she would have 
gone mad. She went out in her small daily 
tracks to the village store, and the prayer- 
meetings, and on Sunday to church, her ag- 
ony of concern being that no one should 
know that she was fretting over the minis- 
ter's desertion of her. 

She talked about the engagement and mar- 
riage with her gentle statelmess of manner, 
which never failed her, but when she got 
home to her parrot, and the healing solitari- 
ness of her own house, she felt like one who 
had a cooling lotion applied to a burn. 

And she wondered more and more if the 
parrot had not verily a soul, and could not 
approach her with a sympathy Which was 
better than any human sympathy, since it 
was so beyond all human laws, but she was 
not fully convinced of it until the minister 
brotight his new wife to call upon her a few 
weeks after his marriage. 

She had wondered vaguely if he would do 
it, if he could do it, but he came in with all 
his dashing grace of manner, and his bride 
was smiling at his side, in her wedding silks, 
80 



THE PARROT 



and Martha greeted them with no disturbance 
of her New England calm and stiffness, but 
inwardly her very soul stormed and protest- 
ed; and as they were sitting in the parlor 
there came of a sudden from the next room, 
where he had been at large, the parrot, Tike a 
very whirlwind of feathered rage, and, with 
a wild shriek, he dashed upon the bridal 
bonnet, plucking furiously at roses and 
plumes. 

Then there was a frightened and flur- 
ried exit, with confusion and apologies, and 
screams of baffled wrath, and rueful smooth- 
ing of torn finery. 

And after the minister and his bride had 
gone, Martha looked at her parrot, and his 
golden eyes met hers, and she recognized in 
the fierce bird a comradeship and an equal- 
ity, for he had given vent to an emotion of 
her own nature, and she knew forevermore 
that the parrot had a soul. 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



HE horse was a colt when he was pur- 



chased with the money paid by the 
heirs of one of the doctor's patients, and those 
were his days of fire. At first it was opined 
that the horse would never do for the doctor : 
he was too nervous, and his nerves beyond 
the reach of the doctor's drugs. He shied 
at every wayside bush and stone; he ran 
away several times; he was loath to stand, 
and many a time the doctor in those days 
was forced to rush from the bedsides of pa- 
tients to seize his refractory horse by the 
bridle and soothe and compel him to quiet. 
The horse in that untamed youth of his was 
like a furnace of fierce animal fire; when 
he was given rein on a frosty morning the 
pound of his iron-bound hoofs on the rigid 
roads cleared them of the slow-plodding coun- 
try teams. A current as of the very freedom 
and invincibility of life seemed to pass through 




85 



UNDERSTUDIES 



the taut reins to the doctor's hands. But 
the doctor was the master of his horse, as 
of all other things with which he came in 
contact. He was a firm and hard man in 
the pursuance of his duty, never yielding to 
it with love, but unswervingly stanch. He 
was never cruel to his horse; he seldom 
whipped him, but he never petted him; he 
simply mastered him, and after a while the 
fiery animal began to go the doctor's gait, 
and not his own. 

When the doctor was sent for in a hurry, 
to an emergency case, the horse stretched 
his legs at a gallop, no matter how little in- 
clined he felt for it, perhaps on a burning 
day of summer. When there was no haste, 
and the doctor disposed to take his time, 
the horse went at a gentle amble, even 
though the frosts of a winter morning were 
firing his blood and every one of his iron 
nerves and muscles was strained with that 
awful strain of repressed motion. Even on 
those mornings the horse would stand at 
the door of the patient who was ill with old- 
fashioned consumption or chronic liver dis- 
ease, his four legs planted widely, his head 
and neck describing a long downward curve, 
so expressive of submission and dejection 
86 



"He was a firm and hard man in the pursuance 
of his duty " 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



that it might have served as a hieroglyphic 
for them, and no more thought of letting 
those bounding impulses of his have their 
way than if the doctor's will had verily bound 
his every foot to the ground with unbreak- 
able chains of servitude. He had become 
the doctor's horse. He was the will of the 
doctor, embodied in a perfect compliance 
of action and motion. People remarked 
how the horse had sobered down, what a 
splendid animal he was for the doctor, and 
they had thought that he would never be able 
to keep him and employ him in his profession. 

Now and then the horse used to look 
around at the empty buggy as he stood at 
the gate of a patient's house, to see if the 
doctor were there, but the will which held 
the reins, being still evident to his conscious- 
ness, even when its owner was absent, kept 
him in his place. He would have no thought 
of taking advantage of his freedom ; he would 
turn his head and droop it in that curve of 
utter submission, shift his weight slightly 
to another foot, make a sound which was 
like a human sigh of patience, and wait again. 
When the doctor, carrying his little medicine- 
chest, came forth, he would sometimes look 
at him, sometimes not; but he would set 

87. 



UNDERSTUDIES 



every muscle into an attitude of readiness 
for progress at the feel of the taut lines and 
the sound of the masterly human voice be- 
hind him. 

Then he would proceed to the house of the 
next patient, and the story would be repeated. 
The horse seemed to live his life in a perfect 
monotony of identical chapters. His waiting 
was scarcely cheered or stimulated by the 
vision and anticipation of his stall and his 
supper, so unvarying was it. The same 
stall, the same measure of oats, the same 
allotment of hay. He was never put out to 
pasture, for the doctor was a poor man, and 
unable to buy another horse and to spare 
him. All the variation which came to his 
experience was the uncertainty as to the night 
calls. Sometimes he would feel a slight re- 
vival of spirit and rebellion when led forth 
on a bitter winter night from his stolidity of 
repose, broken only by the shifting of his 
weight for bodily comfort, never by any per- 
turbation of his inner life. The horse had 
no disturbing memories, and no anticipa- 
tions, but he was still somewhat sensitive to 
surprises. When the flare of the lantern came 
athwart his stall, and he felt the doctor's 
hand at his halter in the deep silence of a 
88 



THE DOCTOR S HORSE 



midnight, he would sometimes feel himself 
as a separate consciousness from the doctor, 
and experience the individualizing of con- 
trary desires. 

Now and then he pulled back, planting 
his four feet firmly, but he always yielded 
in a second before the masterly will of the 
man. Sometimes he started with a vicious 
emphasis, but it was never more than mo- 
mentary. In the end he fell back into his 
state of utter submission. The horse was 
not unhappy. He was well cared for. His 
work, though considerable, was not beyond 
his strength. He had lost something, un- 
doubtedly, in this complete surrender of his 
own will, but a loss of which one is uncon- 
scious tends only to the degradation of an 
animal, not to his misery. 

The doctor often remarked with pride that 
his horse was a well-broken animal, some- 
what stupid, but faithful. All the timid 
women folk in the village looked upon him 
with favor ; the doctor's wife, who was ner- 
vous, loved to drive with her husband behind 
this docile horse, and was not afraid even to 
sit, while the doctor was visiting his patients, 
with the reins over the animal's back. The 
horse had become to her a piece of mechan- 

8 9 



UNDERSTUDIES 



ism absolutely under the control of her hus- 
band, and he was, in truth, little more. Still, 
a furnace is a furnace, even when the fire 
runs low, and there is always the possibility 
of a blaze. 

The doctor had owned the horse several 
years, though he was still young, when a 
young woman came to live in the family. 
She was the doctor's niece, a fragile thing, 
so exposed as to her net-work of supersensi- 
tive nerves to all the winds of life that she 
was always in a quiver of reciprocation or 
repulsion. She feared everything unknown, 
and all strength. She was innately sus- 
picious of the latter. She knew its power 
to work her harm, and believed in its desire 
to do so. Especially was she afraid of that 
rampant and uncertain strength of a horse. 
Never did she ride behind one but she watched 
his every motion ; she herself shied in spirit 
at every wayside stone. She watched for 
him to do his worst. She had no faith when 
she was told by her uncle that this horse 
was so steady that she herself could drive 
him. She had been told that so many times, 
and her confidence had been betrayed. But 
the doctor, since she was like a pale weed 
grown in the shade, with no stimulus of life 
90 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



except that given at its birth, prescribed fresh 
air and, to her consternation, daily drives 
with him. Day after day she went. She 
dared not refuse, for she was as compliant in 
her way to a stronger will as the horse. But 
she went in an agony of terror, of which the 
doctor had no conception. She sat in the 
buggy all alone while the doctor visited his 
patients, and she watched every motion of 
the horse. If he turned to look at her, her 
heart stood still. 

And at last it Came to pass that the horse 
began in a curious fashion to regain some- 
thing of his lost spirit, and met her fear of 
him, and became that which she dreaded. 
One day as he stood before a gate in late au- 
tumn, with a burning gold of maple branches 
over his head and the wine of the frost in his 
nostrils, and this timorous thing seated behind 
him, anticipating that which he could but had 
forgotten that he could do, the knowledge 
and the memory of it awoke in him. There 
was a stiff northwester blowing. The girl 
was huddled in shawls and robes ; her little, 
pale face looked forth from the midst with 
wide eyes, with a prospectus of infinite dan- 
ger from all life in them ; her little, thin hands 
clutched the reins with that consciousness of 
91 



UNDERSTUDIES 



helplessness and conviction of the horse's 
power of mischief which is sometimes like 
an electric current firing the blood of a 
beast. 

Suddenly a piece of paper blew under the 
horse's nose. He had been unmoved by 
fire-crackers before, but to-day, with that 
current of terror behind him firing his blood, 
that paper put him in a sudden fury of panic, 
of self-assertion, of rage, of all three com- 
bined. He snorted; the girl screamed wild- 
ly. He started; the girl gave the reins a 
frantic pull. He stopped. Then the paper 
blew under his nose again, and he started 
again. The girl fairly gasped with terror; 
she pulled the reins, and the terror in her 
hands was like a whip of stimulus to the evil 
freedom in the horse. She screamed again, 
and the sound of that scream was the climax. 
The horse knew all at once what he was — 
not the doctor, but a horse, with a great pow- 
er of blood and muscle which made him not 
only his own master, but the master of all 
weaker things. He gave a great plunge 
that was rapture, the assertion of freedom — 
freedom itself — and was off. The faint 
screams of the frightened creature behind 
him stimulated him to madder progress. 
92 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



At last he knew, by her terrified recognition 
of it, his own sovereignty of liberty. 

He thundered along the road; he had no 
more thought of his pitiful encumbrance of 
servitude, the buggy, than a free soul of its 
mortal coil. The country road was cleared 
before him; plodding teams were pulled 
frantically to the side; women scuttled into 
door-yards ; pale faces peered after him from 
windows. Now and then an adventurous 
man rushed into his path with wild halloos 
and a mad swinging of arms, then fled pre- 
cipitately before his resistless might of ad- 
vance. At first the horse had heard the 
doctor's shouts behind him, and had laughed 
within himself, then he left them far behind. 
He leaped, he plunged, his iron-shod heels 
touched the dashboard of the buggy. He 
heard splintering wood. He gave another 
lunging plunge, then he swerved and leaped 
a wall. Finally he had cleared himself of 
everything except a remnant of his harness. 
The buggy was a wreck, strewn piecemeal 
over a meadow. The girl was lying unhurt, 
but as still as if she were dead ; but the horse 
which her fear had fired to new life was away 
in a mad gallop over the autumn fields, and 
his youth had returned. He was again him- 
93 



UNDERSTUDIES 



self — what he had been when he first awoke 
to a consciousness of existence and the joy 
of bounding motion in his mighty nerves 
and muscles. He was no longer the doc- 
tor's horse, but his own. 

The doctor had to sell him. After that 
his reputation was gone, and, indeed, he was 
never safe. He ran away with the doctor. 
He would not stand a moment unless tied, and 
then pawed and pulled madly at the halter, 
and rent the air with impatient whinnies. 
So the doctor sold him, and made a good 
bargain. The horse was formed for speed, 
and his lapse from virtue had increased his 
financial value. The man who bought him 
had a good eye for horse-flesh, and had no 
wish to stand at doors on his road to success, 
but to take a bee-line for the winning-post. 
The horse was well cared for, but for the first 
time he felt the lash and heard curses ; how- 
ever, they only served to stimulate to a fiercer 
glow the fire which had awakened within him. 
He was never his new master's horse as he 
had been the doctor's. He gained the repu- 
tation of speed, but also of vicious nervous- 
ness. He was put on the race-course. He 
made a record at the county fair. Once he 
killed his jockey. He used to speed along 
94 



THE DOCTOR'S HORSE 



the road drawing a man crouched in a tilting 
gig. Few other horses could pass him. Then 
he began to grow old. 

At last, when the horse was old, he came 
into his first master's hands again. The 
doctor had grown old, older than the horse, 
and he did not know him at first, though he 
did say to his old wife that he looked some- 
thing like that horse which he had owned 
which ran away and nearly killed his niece. 
After he said that, nothing could induce the 
doctor's wife to ride behind him; but the 
doctor, even in his feeble old age, had no 
fear, and the sidelong fire in the old horse's 
eye, and the proud cant of his neck, and his 
haughty resentment at unfamiliar sights on 
the road pleased him. He felt a confidence 
in his ability to tame this untamed thing, 
and the old man seemed to grow younger 
after he had bought the horse. He had 
given up his practice after a severe illness, 
and a young man had taken it, but he began 
to have dreams of work again. He never 
knew that he had bought his own old horse 
until after he had owned him some weeks. 
He was driving him along the country road 
one day in October when the oaks were a 
ruddy blaze, and the sumacs like torches 
95 



UNDERSTUDIES 



along the walls, and the air like wine with 
the smell of grapes and apples. Then sud- 
denly, while the doctor was sitting in the 
buggy with loose reins, speeding along the 
familiar road, the horse stopped; and he 
stopped before the house where had used to 
dwell the man afflicted with old-fashioned 
consumption, and the window which had 
once framed his haggard, coughing visage 
reflected the western sunlight like a blank 
page of gold. There the horse stood, his 
head and long neck bent in the old curve. 
He was ready to wait until the consumptive 
arose from his grave in the churchyard, if 
so ordered. The doctor stared at him. Then 
he got out and went to the animal's head, 
and man and horse recognized each other. 
The light of youth was again in the man's 
eyes as he looked at his own spiritual handi- 
work. He was once more the master, in the 
presence of that which he had mastered. 
But the horse was expressed in body and 
spirit only by the lines of utter yielding and 
patience and submission. He was again 
the doctor's horse. 



BOUNCING BET 



i 



BOUNCING BET 



T N Juty Bouncing Bet came again, appear- 
ing silently, with imperceptible grada- 
tions of progress, as was her wont. There 
were first an upflinging and outreaching 
as of tender naked fingers and arms; then 
came the unfolding of her stout, oval-lanceo- 
late leaves ; then the swelling of her buds ; 
then that morning when the sun was hot and 
the wind blew in frequent soft gusts from 
the south she was present for the first time 
that year in her old place. She was almost 
identical with herself of the year before; 
there were no changes in her except those 
inevitable ones which pertain to the sequence 
of existence. She might be a little stockier, 
her roots might have thickened, but there 
were those same corymbs of loosely flapping, 
rose - colored flowers crowning her stout 
growth, exhaling the same odor, which was 
merely the breath of fresh life, not a com- 
99 



UNDERSTUDIES 



pelling fragrance, as was the case with her 
cousins of the same race. She was far- 
removed kin to the garden pinks, exiled, none 
knew in what prehistoric age of flowers, 
from close relationship with them to the 
dusty, pilgrim ranks of the world, yet hold- 
ing to life with undaunted zeal, and main- 
taining her own creed of bloom in spite of 
scorn and slights. 

It was not so long since that she had been 
held in some honor; she had been planted 
and watered and tended; she had bloomed 
a welcome guest in a colonial garden. She 
was now like a dainty rag and shred of past 
fashion, left fluttering by the wayside from 
the passing of some former pageantry, but 
she knew no difference between her former 
estate and her last, being only a flower. Since 
her first setting in motion in her little cycle, 
her pendulum-swing between life and death, 
she had simply obeyed her law of creation. 
She was, indeed, obedience itself manifested 
in a clump of oval-lanceolate leaves of dusty 
green, and a meek, crowned head of delicate 
rose-colored flowers. 

Behind Bouncing Bet was the remnant of 
the old garden where she had first seen life. 
Old Parson Lyman had planted the seeds, 
ioo 



BOUNCING BET 



which he had brought over from England, in 
a border of his garden. The parson had 
been a gentle soul, fond of gentle things, like 
flowers and singing - birds and murmuring 
brooks and green grass. He had preached 
fire and brimstone with qualms of unbelief 
which he strove hard to swallow, and he died 
repenting with his last breath, and humbly 
confessing his inability to doubt the loving 
kindness and mercy of the Lord. Often in 
the parson's day the flower used to be over- 
shadowed by a slender height of benignity, 
and regarded with affection by eyes which 
had not dwelt long upon things more material 
than flowers in the world. However, that 
made no difference to the flower, which was 
simply a thing set in motion by the old man's 
will, but immovable as to its principle of ex- 
istence by any sentiment of his. The flow- 
er put to bloom by the man was as free as the 
man put to bloom by God. 

This old parson had been a rich man, and 
his house had been accounted a mansion. 
After his death his married son came there 
to live. He had four daughters and two sons, 
one of whom afterwards died in the French 
and Indian War. Then came a time when, 
had the flower been alive in the fullest sense, 
101 



UNDERSTUDIES 



she would have seen to remember. The gar- 
den was adorned by fairer things than flowers 
— by damsels in hooped petticoats of silks 
more gorgeous than the roses ; there was an 
arbor where lovers sat, and the air was full 
of the mystery of love. Then all that passed, 
and more of the same, and the past lay more 
and more thickly buried under the past, and 
finally, when Bouncing Bet returned in this 
hot July, everything was so changed as al- 
most to have passed that limit of change 
where identity ceases. 

The road had widened, the old garden had 
retreated. Bouncing Bet was far beyond 
the precincts in the common highway along 
with the common weeds, herself a weed, if 
she were ranked with her intimates. The 
stately old house leaned heavily towards its 
fall, its gambrel roof sagged, there were 
patches of moss and mould in the hollows, 
its walls were flapping with gray shingles, 
and in it lived alone the last survivor of the 
line of the old parson who planted the flower. 
The last survivor was a woman, of course. 
It is generally the woman who survives, 
either from her pliability of strength, which 
no storm nor stress can affect, or from the 
fact that she holds to existence with less te- 
102 




"The last survivor was a woman 



BOUNCING BET 



nacity of grasp, and so does not waste her 
life with her effort to save it. 

Be that as it may, she lived alone there, 
her husband and children being so long dead 
that she thought of them with the utter peace 
of acquiescence. She had, indeed, acquiesced, 
with no questioning, in most of the decrees of 
fate. She had a placid temperament, and 
was disposed to get her honey from small 
things in lieu of great ones. People said that 
she had not felt her trials as most would have 
done, and, in proof of it, pointed to her face, 
young beyond her years, with a blowsy, yet 
delicate, bloom of round cheeks, a calm clear- 
ness of blue eyes, and smooth crinkles of 
yellow hair. "Any woman that can go 
through what Ann Lyman has gone through 
and not have a gray hair hasn't got feelings/ ' 
said they, especially Mrs. John Evarts, who 
lived in her daughter's new house across the 
street. Mrs. John Evarts, who kept house 
in the north side, used to sit in her bay-win- 
dow and watch proceedings over the way. 
She was the one who instigated the plan to 
take Ann from her old home and have her 
board with Mrs. Jackson Smith, w T ith whom 
the town occasionally boarded people whose 
former estate and some remnant of present 
103 



UNDERSTUDIES 



means seemed to prohibit from the town farm. 
Mrs. Jackson Smith was, moreover, a distant 
relative of the Lymans, and that made it seem 
a milder measure. 

" It won't seem anything but going to live 
with her cousin/' said Mrs. John Evarts. 
She furthermore said that she had lain awake 
nights worrying over it. She knew Ann 
Lyman would set herself afire, she would 
starve to death, she would bring an epidemic 
of typhoid into the neighborhood, living the 
way she did. 

Poor Ann Lyman's easy acquiescence in 
circumstances extended to conditions of nat- 
ural dirt and disorder. It is possible that it 
might have extended as well to original sin 
had her lines been cast in different places. 
Her neighbors, the rigorously tidy village 
women, said that Ann Lyman couldn't see 
dirt; possibly she might not have seen sin 
had it come in her way; but it never had. 
That had not been so inevitable. The dust 
of life had not come in her windows to settle 
on her soul, but the dust of the country roads 
had entered and settled on her furniture, and 
she let it remain. 

"I don't believe you ever dust, Ann Ly- 
man," Mrs. Evarts said one day. 

104 



BOUNCING BET 



Ann only laughed. 

"Do you?" insisted the other woman, 
scowling above her forced smile. 
"No/' said Ann. 

Ann might have argued, with justice, that 
she had not much worth dusting. Piece by 
piece the stately old furniture of the mansion- 
house had been disposed of to the dealers. 
There was now little left ; the paint was worn 
from the fine panel-work, and rags of carpets 
clung to the nails on the edges of the slanting 
floors, but Ann could accomplish a great 
multiple of disorder with few factors. The 
interior of the old house resembled nothing 
so much as the interior of a wrecked ship. 
Its broken furnishings were all set askance 
at one another, every shred of former splen- 
dor was in full and defiant evidence, and, in 
addition, there was a general effect of all the 
lines of construction being awry and off their 
true levels. There was not a horizontal line 
in the whole house ; there were only the reck- 
less slants of waste and destruction by that 
fiercest storm of the world, the storm of time. 
But all this did not trouble Ann in the least. 
When a rocker of her old chair, in which she 
had sat by her favorite window for more than 
forty years, gave out, she put a stick of wood 
105 



UNDERSTUDIES 



in its place, and sat still, and concluded that 
she fancied that better than rocking. When 
the glass was broken out of her favorite win- 
dow, she moved over to another, and thought 
the new outlook pleasanter. Every new 
groove of life had fitted this easily sliding, 
jelly-like old woman; she took her shape 
from circumstances ; nothing rubbed her to 
her discomfort ; she was the happiest woman 
in the village. But her time came. 

The afternoon the selectmen, headed by 
Jonathan Lyman, the far-away kinsman of 
the old Lyman family to which she and the 
old house belonged, came to interview her 
about the proposed change in her way of 
living, there was a transformation. This 
smoothly-oscillating- at- every- touch creature 
became of a sudden vibrant with pure indi- 
viduality. Her flaccid muscles seemed to 
harden, the faint bloom on her cheeks blazed, 
her loosely smiling mouth was rigid, her 
mild eyes pointed as with the glitter of steel. 
All human beings, however unassertive they 
may be, have some footholds of self, impreg- 
nable against assault. Ann's had been 
touched, and she stood firm with a great 
shock of revolt. She stood up, clinched 
and stiffened ; her voice rang out with such 
106 



She used to sit in the bay-window 



BOUNCING BET 



an echo that the selectmen turned simulta- 
neously and stared over their shoulders. 

There were three of the selectmen; two 
were elderly, the third was young Lyman. 
He had been pushed forward to do the speak- 
ing to Ann. He had opened glibly enough. 
He was confident by nature, and of an im- 
perious turn. Then, too, his sweetheart 
was Mrs. John Evarts's granddaughter, 
and she had advised this measure. He 
stated, pitilessly candid, and yet with no 
thought that his candor was pitiless, being 
one of those to whom the truth is its own 
vindication, the facts of the case. He point- 
ed out to this lone woman her poverty, her 
untidiness, her lack of thrift, her indolence ; 
he descanted upon the injury to herself and 
others; he descanted upon the superior ad- 
vantages of the home which had been pro- 
vided for her; he mentioned the fact that 
the savings-bank held an overdue mortgage 
on the property; he concluded by ordering 
Ann to be in readiness to move the next day. 

But even he, as well as his colleagues, was 
aghast at the result. When they turned to 
face Ann after that first incredulous glance 
over shoulders for some other source of that 
unexpected voice, each had the same help- 
107 



UNDERSTUDIES 



less gape of astonishment. They listened 
speechless, too amazed to shuffle in their 
chairs. 

"This old house/' said Ann, with a ring- 
ing eloquence of desperation — " this old house 
has belonged to my father's family for over 
a hundred years, and you talk about turning 
me out of it! Me! Me! Why don't you 
turn the chimney out? Why don't you pull 
down the door-post? I'm as much a part of 
it. Root up the box out in the yard ; pull up 
that clump of pinies ; tear up the lilac bush- 
es ; chop down the poplar-tree that my grand- 
father planted! Pull down, root up, but I 
tell you leave me be! I belong here! I am 
the live thing that keeps it together. What 
if I ain't neat? What's neatness to things 
that belong to life itself, I want to know? 
What if I ain't orderly? Ain't I alive? I 
tell you I'm the soul of this old place, and 
you want to turn a soul out of a body! I 
was born here, and my father before me, 
and my grandfather before him. I lived 
right along here when I was married; my 
children were born here, and they all died 
here. Talk about the savings-bank hold- 
ing a mortgage ! What's a mortgage? You 
can't mortgage things with any show of rea- 
108 



BOUNCING BET 



son that are a part and parcel of a human 
being. Turn me out! Me! Me!" 

Suddenly Ann sat down in her broken 
rocking-chair again, and a curious defiance 
of immovability seemed to settle over her. 
She actually looked as if it would need more 
than human strength to dislodge her. She 
in her rocking-chair seemed as rigidly im- 
possible of movement as the pyramids. 

The two elder selectmen looked at the young 
chairman. There was a flush on his cheeks. 
He arose. 

"Well, Mrs. Lyman/' said he, "I regret 
to see that you are in such a frame of mind, 
but my opinion remains the same, and so 
will that of all your friends. At two o'clock 
to-morrow I will be here with a carriage, and 
I must beg that you will be ready." 

Ann made no reply, but she looked at him 
as if her soul was rooted fast in all the ages. 

The three selectmen went out. One of them, 
quite an old man, was fairly pale. " She's 
going to take on terribly about going," he 
said to the chairman, who smiled scornfully. 
There was a cruel vein in him; his hand- 
some face was quite unmoved. 

The next afternoon he presented himself 
at the old house without his colleagues, who 
109 



UNDERSTUDIES 



had excuses ready for their absence. He 
fastened the horse, hitched in a large covered 
wagon, to the old post at the gate; then he 
went up to the front door and raised the knock- 
er. He waited, but no one came. He knocked 
again, with no better result. He looked at 
the windows, which were dusty blanks. He 
glanced across the way, and saw Mrs. John 
Evarts standing in her front door watching 
curiously. A girl's pretty, fair face looked 
over her shoulder, and he knew it for his 
sweetheart's, Flora Evarts. After he had 
knocked again in vain, she came running 
over, her grandmother following, and pres- 
ently her aunt Hannah, who lived in the 
house, and had just returned from making 
calls, and wore her black silk, which rustled 
a good deal and tinkled with jet, and a bonnet 
nodding with grasses. 

Thus reinforced, the selectman opened 
the front door and entered the house. A 
shadow moved across the old hall with the 
spiral stair in the midst, and they all started ; 
but it was only due to a curtain in an open 
window swaying in the sudden draught from 
the door. They went through all the squalid 
rooms. The little party became gradually 
augmented until nearly all the neighbors 
no 



BOUNCING BET 



were there. Most of them were women. 
They opened door after door ; they eyed the 
revelations of squalor with disgust and a 
growing horror. " Something's happened 
to her/' one and another whispered. They 
peered fearfully into close clothes-presses; 
they searched the evil-smelling cellar glooms 
and the long, dusty shadows under the gar- 
ret eaves. All the party fell back with pale, 
shocked faces, even the chairman of the se- 
lectmen, at the sight of an old gown hanging 
from a high bedpost. But young Lyman's 
terror was over in a moment ; he was to the 
front, and had gingerly dislodged the gar- 
ment. 

" To think of a Christian woman wearing 
a dress like that!" said Mrs. John Evarts. 
The old woman held her skirts wrapped 
closely around her thin figure ; she held her 
nose averted, ready with a sniff of disgust. 
The malice in her was only half intimidated 
by the fear of what she might at any minute 
see in these poor rooms. She had never loved 
Ann Lyman, and the reason therefor dated 
back to their girlhood. The flaws of her 
neighbor had been her chief savor of life, 
and she was tasting it now to the uttermost. 

At last they had searched the old house 
in 



UNDERSTUDIES 



from garret to cellar, and Ann was not there. 
There could be no doubt of it. They all 
stood together in the north chamber and con- 
ferred as to the situation. The north chamber 
had been the guest-room of the old mansion, 
and was in some respects the best preserved. 
There was still a decent straw matting on 
the floor, and an ancient green -and -white 
paper on the walls, and the ceiling was not 
precarious. There lingered also the splendid 
carved bureau and the high-posted bedstead. 
Ann had refused to sell these, on account 
of associations, the violation of which even 
her placidity could not face. " My husband 
had his last sickness in this room/' she told 
the dealer, " and it was fitted up for me with a 
new carpet when I was married. I'm going 
to let it be a while longer/' It was in this 
room that the one attempt at housewifery 
was evident. The great feather-bed hung 
from the window to air, suspended on the 
stout blind-hooks. 

"I didn't know she ever aired anything," 
remarked Mrs. John Evarts, in a harsh whis- 
per. 

Flora looked at her disapprovingly. 
"You don't know but she's dead, grand- 
mother," said she. 

112 



BOUNCING BET 



" I should be ashamed to be dead and leave 
a house looking like this/' said her grand- 
mother, stoutly. 

"She's run away/' suggested one of the 
neighbors. 

" She's drowned herself in the well, mebbe/' 
whispered another, trembling. 

" She must have felt pretty desperate, poor 
thing!" said Mrs. John Evarts's daughter. 
There were glass dew-drops on the nodding 
grasses on her bonnet, and they tinkled as 
did the jet beads on her bodice; the silken 
breadths of her dress rustled, and her best 
shoes creaked when she eased her weight. 
She was a stout woman; her cheeks were 
blazing, and her mouth drooped piteously at 
the corners. "I wish you hadn't said any- 
thing about her to the selectmen," she said 
to her mother. 

"Look at this house," retorted Mrs. John 
Evarts. 

" Well, you might have let her be as long 
as she lived," said her daughter. "She 
didn't hurt anybody but herself with the 
dirt." 

" She didn't, hey?" retorted the old woman. 
She leaned over her daughter, and whispered 
fiercely some further disclosures as to the 
H 113 



UNDERSTUDIES 



missing woman's untidiness and actual in- 
decency of squalor; but her daughter only 
shook her tinkling head; "I'm dreadful 
sorry you did anything about it," she re- 
peated. 

Suddenly, as they all stood there confer- 
ring as to what was best to be done next, 
the girl, Flora Evarts, in her pretty pink 
muslin dress, with a pink rose tucked in her 
belt, gave a great start. They all turned 
and looked at her. 

"What on earth is the matter, Flora?" 
cried her grandmother, sharply. 

"Nothing," replied the girl, quickly; but 
her pretty face was very pale. 

The young selectman stepped close to her 
and looked at her anxiously, but she turned 
her back on him sharply. 

"What ails you all?" she cried, pettishly. 
"If there isn't enough to make anybody 
jump! Why don't you go and have the 
well dragged and send out some parties to 
search, and not stand here talking any 
longer?" 

"What made you jump so, Flora?" per- 
sisted the selectman. 

" Nothing, I tell you," said the girl, sharply. 
Then she turned with sudden passion. " For 
114 



BOUNCING BET 



Heaven's sake/' she demanded, "why don't 
you do something? That poor soul will die 
if somebody doesn't do something." She 
caught her breath in a sob, and again the 
selectman looked at her anxiously and won- 
deringly. He had never seen her like that. 
She was a girl of remarkable poise. But 
her energy moved them all. They dispersed, 
to drag the well and a near-by pond, and to 
organize searching-parties. Not one of the 
neighbors had seen her pass. It >vas as if 
the old woman had vanished. 

At last the north chamber was quite desert- 
ed. The last woman had been gone a minute 
or so, when Flora E varts came speeding back 
like a deer. She rushed to the window where 
the feather-bed hung. She caught hold of 
it ; she leaned over it. 

"Are you there?" she whispered. "An- 
swer quick. Don't be afraid. Are you there?" 

There was a slight convulsive motion of 
the feather-bed, but no other response. 

" Don't be afraid. They sha'n't take you 
away if you don't want to go," repeated the 
girl. " Are you there? Are you most dead? 
I must help you out ! Answer me. I'm 
Flora Evarts! I'll take care of you! Are 
you there?" 

115 



UNDERSTUDIES 



Then there came a stifled groan, then a 
gasping sob from the feather-bed. Then 
the girl, grasping the edge of the bed with 
two nervous little hands, began to tug fran- 
tically. She heard a slight sound of rending 
cloth. The bed wriggled convulsively. Flo- 
ra cast a glance of horror at the ground be- 
low. It was not far into the growth of sweet- 
brier and caraway bushes beneath the win- 
dow in the back yard, but it was too far to 
fall. 

"Reach out your arms if you can," she 
cried ; and up came, with a desperate effort, 
two skinny, piteous old arms, and the girl 
clutched them. 

"Oh, you poor soul!" she half sobbed. 
" Don't be afraid ; don't be afraid." 

" You let go if I've got to be carried away," 
said a muffled voice. She could see the strug- 
gling shape of the old woman's head in the 
feather-bed. The tick tore a little more at 
the hooks. Flora held to the lean old hands 
desperately. She braced her feet and pulled. 
Somehow she managed it. Ann got her feet 
on the edge of the window below, and helped 
herself a little. Finally she fell into the north 
chamber, and she and the girl sank on the 
floor together. Flora struggled to her feet 
116 



BOUNCING BET 



and helped the old woman out of the feather- 
bed. She was grotesquely tragic, her cheeks 
shining with heat, her eyes red-rimmed like 
an owl's; she was bristling with feathers. 
But she held herself with a dignity of mis- 
ery which forbade mirth. 

"I knew they would find me anywhere 
else/' said she. "I didn't care if I did fall 
and break my neck. I heard it tear while 
you all stood here. You heard it, didn't you, 
Flora?" 

Flora nodded. She kept her mouth firm- 
ly set, but the tears were streaming over her 
cheeks. 

" You won't let them take me away, will 
you, Flora?" 

"No, I won't," declared Flora, in a firm 
voice. She heard just then a noise below, 
and she flung open the north chamber door 
and called. Her lover, the selectman, an- 
swered her. 

"Come here," said Flora. 

"I'm after a rope — I can't stop," he re- 
turned. 

"You don't need any rope. She's here," 
said Flora. 

The young man came rushing up-stairs, 
but Flora stood in the north chamber door. 
117 



UNDERSTUDIES 



" You can't come in ; you can't touch her," 
she declared. 
"Flora!" 

" You sha'n't take away this woman from 
this house as long as she lives!" 
"Flora!" 

"You shall not, I say." 
" But—" 

" If you do, I will never marry you as long 
as I live," said Flora. 

With that she flung up her hands, still 
cramped with the effort of holding to those 
other helpless ones of the poor old woman, 
and the young man caught her in his arms. 

The old woman slipped past them and went 
down-stairs to her place by the window. She 
leaned her head back in her rickety chair, 
and smiled with perfect contentment. She 
did not trouble herself to pick off any of the 
feathers still clinging to her garments. She 
was beyond such matters, as much beyond 
as any flower of the field at the mercy of the 
wings of winds and settling foreign things. 

After a while her kind neighbors came 
and assured her that she should remain in 
her old home as long as she lived. Mrs. 
John Evarts tidied up the kitchen and made 
her a cup of tea. Flora brought in some 
118 



BOUNCING BET 



floating-island, and another woman some 
custard-pie. When the last one went away 
her larder was quite full. 

At sunset Ann Lyman crept out to her 
front door-step and sat there in the full of the 
passing radiance. Beyond the gate bloom- 
ed the clump of Bouncing Bet. Mrs. John 
Evarts looked across from her window and 
saw them both — the old woman and the 
flower, both with a strange unkemptness of 
late bloom, both fulfilling to the utmost their 
one law of obedience to their first conditions 
of life. And she also saw, without compre- 
hension, two parallels, separated perhaps 
by the width of the eternity of the spirit, 
yet as perfect and undeviating as any on the 
terrestrial globe. 



PRINCE'S-FEATHER 



PRINCE'S-FEATHER 



/^AYLY above the tangled spangle of 
the old-fashioned garden waved the 
prince's-feather. It waved with a curious 
lack of yielding and pliability to the soft in- 
sinuations of the breeze, and seemed to re- 
main long in its rigid incline, almost as if the 
flower had been carven in rosy stone blown 
before some wind of the imagination. The 
prince's-feather belonged to the order of am- 
aranthine flowers which resist complete de- 
cay, being armed against it like porcupines 
with stiff panoplies of spikes. 

One coming down the street, peering over 
the garden-hedge of the Holding place, saw 
always first the prince's-feather. There were 
fairer and sweeter flowers, but that came first 
in evidence, thrusting itself like a trumpet 
call of color above the mignonette, the sweet 
alyssum, the pinks, and the rest. Even the 
tall hollyhocks, being retired against the 
123 



UNDERSTUDIES 



house wall, were eclipsed. The prince's- 
feather seemed to overcap and lead the floral 
riot of midsummer with a harmless and 
worthless, but unrivalled show and daring. 

The garden was in a hollow at the right of 
the Holding house, which was very old, but 
had lately been improved and rejuvenated 
until it seemed disrespectful, to either its age 
or its youth, to remember its old corner-stones 
and sills, the drunken leanings and waver- 
ings of its doors and windows, the undula- 
tions of its floors, and the settling and short- 
ening of its central chimney like some aged 
man whose stature has decreased by 3 7 ears. 
Eugene Holding had suddenly become rich, 
and had restored the old place, throwing 
out, like ostentatious excrescences of a new 
growth . porticos, bay - windows, and even a 
tower crowned with a cupola on the corner 
towards the village square. 

Eugene was very young when he came 
home from the city where he had been em- 
ployed, working his way up — for the fortunes 
of the family were at the lowest ebb — in a 
great machine factory owned by a distant 
kinsman of his mother. Immediately after 
he had arrived, the news spread that he had 
come into such a fortune that the working 
124 



PRINCE' S-FEAT HER 



up was unnecessary, since the height was 
gained. 

One evening in May, at sundown, young 
Eugene came riding into town on the driver's 
seat of the stage-coach which plied between 
the village and the nearest railroad centre. 
Instead of the little hair-cloth trunk, like 
some small animal of an extinct species, with 
which he had gone away, two modern affairs 
of smooth leather were strapped on behind. 
As for Eugene himself, he was radiant, fairly 
resplendent. He sat beside the driver, and, 
although the other man was over the average 
size, he seemed to be head and shoulders 
above him. He looked abroad with a gay 
confidence in admiration which compelled it. 
His handsome face was delicately pink and 
white, with a daintily curving golden mus- 
tache. His close crop of curly golden hair 
was exposed, for he was constantly waving 
his hat to people on the road. They returned 
his salutations with the surly abashedness 
of the rustic, then stood back and stared and 
stared again. "Who was that?" one said 
to another. "It wasn't Eugene Holding. 
Why, he's workin' in Philadelphia. He 
can't be home this time of year, and all dress- 
ed up that way." The hue of Eugene's coat 
125 



UNDERSTUDIES 



had struck awe and disapproval to the hearts 
of the men. There was no other coat of that 
color in the village. 

Before sundown the next day Eugene's 
mother had told the news to Mrs. William 
Holmes and to Mrs. Catherine Woods, and 
they did the rest. The whole village knew, 
as by a flash of simultaneous intelligence, 
that Eugene Holding had made money and 
had come home rich. "He will not need to 
do anything more as long as he lives/' said 
Eugene's mother. She had a face harsh 
in color and outline, yet, curiously enough, 
exceedingly gentle in expression; she was 
slender and tall, with a settled stoop which 
was not ungraceful, being lateral. One 
meeting Mrs. Holding thought involuntarily 
of a strong starboard wind, and realized dim- 
ly an incongruity between her attitude of 
body and her motionless skirts. Mrs. Hold- 
ing was unusually precise as to her choice 
of language, being punctilious as to her will 
nots and shall nots, and disdaining contrac- 
tions. People in consequence called her af- 
fected. They were inwardly resentful and 
skeptical when they saw her triumph over her 
son. " How did he make his money?" asked 
Mrs. William Holmes, with a cold stare, 
126 



PRINCE' S-FEATHER 



though she widened her mouth in a smile of 
congratulation. 

"My son has been exceedingly fortunate 
in a business venture, and he will not need 
to lift his finger again unless he wants 
to/' said Mrs. Holding, adjusting a lacy 
crocheted hood which she wore over her 
head. 

"How did you say he made it?" repeated 
the other woman. 

"By a fortunate business measure/' re- 
plied Mrs. Holding. 

"Seems to me Eugene is pretty young to 
make such fortunate business ventures/' said 
Mrs. Holmes. "How did you say he made 
his money?" 

"By a fortunate business venture/' said 
Mrs. Holding. 

That was all she ever would say, and Eu- 
gene, in spite of his aggressiveness of frank- 
ness, was no more communicative as to the 
source of his wealth, about which there seemed 
to be no doubt. He commenced immediately 
to improve his house, and he purchased a 
fine horse and carriage. It was an imposing 
spectacle when Eugene drove forth in the 
cool of a summer evening, at first with his 
mother resplendent in a new silk, a beflow- 
127 



UNDERSTUDIES 



ered bonnet, and a jetted mantle, by his side, 
and, later on, Camilla Rose. 

Camilla Rose's father had been the richest 
man in the village; she had money in her own 
right, and had " enjoyed advantages/' as the 
neighbors put it. "Good reason why Ca- 
milla Rose can look so nice and appear so 
pretty/' said they. "She ought to; she's 
been to boarding-school, and she's travelled 
in Europe." They were enviously acquies- 
cent when she and Eugene began to be seen 
in each other's company. "Birds of a 
feather flock together," said they. "Of 
course, now Eugene has got money, Camilla 
will think he's beautiful. The Roses always 
had an eye for money. Besides, his family 
counts for something. The Holdings and 
the Roses always held their heads above 
common folks." This Camilla Rose was a 
tall, brown-eyed girl, with a pouting redness 
of lips, and a reluctant smile, which gathered 
charm from its reluctance. Whoever made 
Camilla smile at him was conscious of a dis- 
tinct victory. Camilla smiled upon Eugene 
rarely, yet often enough to keep alive in him 
a supporting sense of encouragement. 

However, it would not have been easy for 
her to have discouraged Eugene Holding. 
128 



PRINCES-FEATHER 



Anything like the joyful sanguinity of this 
young fellow was seldom seen. He seemed 
furnished by nature with some armor of the 
spirit which rendered him impervious to 
slight and repulse. His mother was proud 
of this peculiarity in her son. "If anybody 
has ever said no to Eugene, he has gone right 
ahead and acted as if he had said yes/' said 
she. "Then there is another thing about 
Eugene — if ever he has been so situated that 
he could not have something that he set his 
heart upon, another would do just as well, 
and he never seemed to know that he had not 
got what he wanted. I remember once when 
he had been longing for a new jack-knife, 
somebody gave him a top instead, and he 
went right to spinning it, and never seemed 
to know he was not whittling. 1 never heard 
him mention the knife again. Eugene al- 
ways gets ahead of his happenings, and he 
always will. Nothing that can ever happen 
on this earth is going to conquer him. He is 
bound to be in the lead of his fate/' Mrs. 
Holding was something of a philosopher, and 
talked sometimes beyond her neighbors. 
That and her precise English caused them 
to regard her half with admiration, half with 
the defensive ridicule of inferiority. They 
I 129 



UNDERSTUDIES 

regarded Eugene in something of the same 
fashion. "He ain't so smart, for all he 
cuts such a dash," said they. "His mother 
needn't think he is ; he ain't." They looked 
at him as he drove by, or walked with a gen- 
tle swagger, and a jaunty swing of a slender 
cane, and frequent flourishes of his silk hat, 
yet, after all, they felt a certain admiration 
and liking for him. It was impossible not 
to like Eugene Holding. His utter confi- 
dence of approval commanded it. One would 
have been a churl not to smile back at this 
forever-smiling young man, not to return 
with some cordiality his imperious, but 
wholly charming, even affectionate, saluta- 
tion. "Eugene Holding acts as if he was 
the lord of all creation," said they, yet with a 
certain self-gratulation at having been so 
genially accosted by one of such high pre- 
tensions. 

Eugene and Camilla were such a hand- 
some couple that they were a delight to the 
eye when they were seen driving together. 
Eugene was taller than the girl; his golden 
curly head gleamed beside her brown one. 
Camilla's beautiful face was shaded by a 
great cloud of brown curls, and a blue feather 
floated from her Leghorn hat. She was as 
130 



"Eugene and Camilla were seen driving together" 



PRINCE'S-FEATHER 



pleasantly conscious of the people whom 
they met, and their admiration, as she was of 
the young man at her side. 

Eugene thought Camilla perfection. He 
adored her beauty, yet the memory of it never 
dimmed for a moment the image of his own 
face in the mirror. He always saw her pretty 
gowns and hats, and the sight sent his con- 
sideration with the swift recoil of vanity to 
his own apparel. 

Eugene hurried forward the improvements 
on his house; they were completed in July, 
and he and Camilla were to be married the 
first of August. The villagers passing the 
renovated house used to turn back and stare, 
and that made Eugene and his mother, sitting 
on their new porch, proudly conscious. 

Eugene took an especial delight in the lit- 
tle cupola which crowned the tower. The 
cupola was purely ornamental, and the roof 
was painted a bright crimson color, not un- 
like that of the prince's-feather in the garden. 
Indeed, it might have been unconsciously 
suggested by it. Eugene used to stand out 
in the front yard and stare happily at this 
brilliant cupola. 

"Your new cupola looks very gay," said 
Camilla's mother to Mrs. Holding one after- 
131 



UNDERSTUDIES 



noon as the two ladies sat on the porch. She 
did not speak critically; that was not her 
way. She simply mentioned facts, and left 
her hearers to deduce disparagement or flat- 
tery as they chose. Mrs. Holding, like her 
son, generally deduced flattery. " Yes, it is 
a beautiful color," said she. " Eugene has 
always been so fond of bright colors/' 

As she spoke Eugene and Camilla came 
across the yard on their way from the garden, 
and Eugene had a sprig of prince's-feather 
waving against the lapel of his coat. He 
had also stuck a great spike of it like a plume 
in Camilla's curls. 

As the two neared the porch Camilla reached 
up her hand and pulled out the prince's- 
feather and flung it away. "I never liked 
that flower," she remarked. 

"It is the prettiest flower in the garden," 
declared Eugene, but he only laughed at her 
scorn of it, and flung an arm around the 
girl's waist, and they came thus towards the 
two mothers. There was a strong south wind 
blowing, and the two tall figures stiffened 
themselves against it. Camilla seemed in a 
whirlwind of white flounces and ribbons, out 
of which her beautiful face looked with un- 
smiling complacency, which was, in effect, 
132 



PRINCE' S-FEATHER 



a smile at herself. Eugene had just given 
her some diamond ear-drops, which glittered 
through her curls ; she had everything which 
she wanted ; a measureless satisfaction with 
herself, the whole world, and the Providence 
which had created her was over the girl, and 
no less over the young man. Both of them 
looked invincible by any fate. They had 
the mien of conquerors as they came across 
the yard, with the two elders watching them, 
the one with perfect accord, the other with 
pride and delight, yet with bewilderment. 
Camilla's mother was sometimes bewildered 
almost to the point of fear by her daughter. 
She herself had never been capable of such 
a haughty confidence in the good-will of 
Providence, but was rather prepared for a 
sanctified and gentle acquiescence towards 
hard usage on its part. Mrs. Holding real- 
ized dimly that Camilla had an almost con- 
temptuous, and her lover a joyfully imperious, 
incredulity that the tree of life could grow 
anything but plums for them, and she her- 
self was conscious of a guilty wonder if it 
would not be unworthy so to do, in the face 
of such superb confidence. 

Mrs. Holding, while she had the greatest 
pride in Camilla, yet felt herself more in 
133 



UNDERSTUDIES 

sympathy with her younger daughter Jane, 
although she had a peevish temper, and was 
semi-crippled. One of Jane's limbs was 
shorter than the other, and she limped about 
with a painful absurdity of gait, which tort- 
ured her soul even more than her body. 
Jane would never walk beside Camilla. She 
used to watch her sister set out to drive with 
her handsome lover, as some utterly irre- 
deemable Cinderella might have done. It 
did not seem as if existence could ever hold 
glass slippers and a gold coach for her, least 
of all a prince; but such things are always 
unexpected, and her day came, though in 
what might have seemed a half-hearted and 
second-rate sort of fashion. The week be- 
fore Eugene and Camilla were to be married, 
the young man came to visit his sweet- 
heart one evening, and he was gayer and 
more unconcerned than ever. They went to 
drive, and it was like a triumphal progress. 
Eugene bowed to every one with that charm- 
ing, almost royal, assurance of conferring a 
favor and a grace. Camilla sat beside him 
like a queen. It was not until they reached 
her gate on their return that he told her 
the news, laughing as he did so, as if it 
were the pleasantest thing in the world. 
134 



PRINCE' S-FEATHER 



"The mine has gone to pieces/' said he, 
easily. 

"What mine?" asked Camilla, in bewilder- 
ment. " What do you mean?" 

"The mine has gone to pieces, or, rather, 
there isn't any mine. There never was. 
Isn't it a joke, eh?" 

"What mine?" 

"The one I put the little money we had 
left in," said Eugene, smiling. "That was 
how I got my money, you know, or, rather, 
my prospects. 1 never got much money, 
but nobody ever had such prospects. Why, 
Camilla, we might have had the earth. Never 
was such a mine as they made that out to be. " 

Camilla had turned very pale. " What do 
you mean?" she said, slowly. "Haven't 
you got any money, Eugene?" 

"Not a dollar," he returned, laughing; 
"had two big dividends, and paid for the 
cupola and things, and mother's clothes and 
mine, and your diamonds — that's all. Not a 
dollar left. 1 didn't tell you what my money 
was in, you know, because the prospects were 
so big. 1 wanted to surprise you. Never 
were such prospects. Camilla, you ought 
to have seen the diamond brooch I was look- 
ing at for you last week." 

135 



UNDERSTUDIES 



" Are you going to work in your old place 
again ?" asked Camilla, in a queer voice. 

"Oh no/' Eugene replied, cheerfully. "1 
am going to stay on here, and raise early 
vegetables. I think I can make a good thing 
with early vegetables. 1 dare say you'll 
get that brooch before the year is out, after 
all, Camilla." 

" You don't expect to marry me next week?" 
she said. 

"Why— why not?" cried Eugene, not with 
dismay, but a merry, childlike incredulous- 
ness that she could mean what she said. 

Camilla said no more. She motioned to 
get out of the carriage, and Eugene sprang 
out to assist her. He caught her in his arms 
and kissed her. "Good-night," he called 
after her as she went up the path. "I'll be 
around to-morrow night." Then he drove 
away, and his merry whistle floated back 
above the rattle of the wheels and the tap of 
the horse's hoofs. 

The next evening, when Eugene came to 
take Camilla driving, she did not meet him 
at the door as usual, all ready in her pretty 
gown and hat. 

He sat waiting, several people passed, and 
he saluted them in his ordinary manner, and 
136 



PRINCE' S-FEAT HER 



they returned it and went on whispering. 
They had heard the news that he had lost his 
money — that he had never had any money. 
He had been more confidential over his loss 
than over his acquisition. He had told every- 
body at length all the details of the spurious 
mining venture, and had not a word of re- 
proach for those who had deceived him. On 
the contrary, he seemed to feel nothing but 
gratitude. 

" They told me there was a wonderful pros- 
pect ahead, and so there was/' said he. Then 
he would add that if it had not been for that 
he might have worked in a factory all his 
days, and never been led to think of raising 
early vegetables, in which scheme he had 
even more confidence than he ever had in 
the mine. He had in his pockets some pack- 
ages of seeds which he had purchased that 
afternoon, though he could not plant them 
until the next spring. He took them out 
and examined them delightedly as he wait- 
ed. He had brought them to show to Ca- 
milla. 

But Camilla did not appear. He was just 
about to get out and go to the door when it 
opened, and the younger sister Jane stood 
there. "Hello, Jane/' Eugene called out. 
137 



UNDERSTUDIES 



' Tell Camilla to hurry. Dick doesn't like 
to stand. The flies plague him/' 

Jane did not answer, but came painfully 
limping out to the carriage. Then she spoke, 
looking at him with terror and distress, and 
something else, which was adoration, but 
he did not know it. 

" Camilla isn't going to drive with you, 
Eugene," said she. 

" Isn't going to drive with me? Why not? 
Why, what makes you look so pale, Jane? 
Are you sick?" 

"No. Camilla isn't going to drive with 
you, Eugene." 

"Is she sick?" 

"No, she isn't sick. She isn't going to 
drive with you." 

"Why not?" Eugene stared. Suddenly 
he fumbled in his pocket and pulled out a 
little pink note. "See here," he cried, "I 
had this letter from Camilla, but I didn't 
dream she meant it. She didn't mean it, 
did she?" 

Jane's face quivered a little, though her 
eyes were hard. "Yes, she did," said she. 
"Camilla has always meant it, if she is my 
sister." 

"She meant it?" repeated Eugene, in- 

138 



PRINCE' S-FEATHER 



credulously. "Why, I never dreamed it. 
She says/' he continued, eying the letter, 
"that she can't marry me on account of the 
change in my prospects. Why, my prospects 
haven't changed! She says she feels that 
she is not suited to be the wife of a poor man. 
Why, 1 am not a poor man, and my pros- 
pects haven't changed! Say, Jane, did she 
tell you about the early vegetables?" 

Jane did not reply to that. She only re- 
peated, in a sort of mechanical fashion, " Ca- 
milla isn't going to drive with you." 

"Oh, nonsense!" cried Eugene; "of course 
she is. Go in and tell her, that's a good girl, 
Jane. Tell her I want to show her the seeds 
I've got. I guess she won't think my pros- 
pects have changed, then. Go in and tell her, 
Jane, do." 

" I can't," said Jane, half angrily, half pite- 
ously. Her little face was a study of con- 
flicting emotions. 

"Well, then," said Eugene, good-humor- 
edly, "I must go in and fetch her myself. 
Stand by the horse a minute, will you, Jane?" 

Jane threw up her hand to stop him. " No," 
she cried out. " No, no ! It's no use ! Oh, 
it isn't any use, Eugene !" 

Eugene stared at her. " Why isn't it any 
139 



UNDERSTUDIES 



use? Of course she 11 go. It'll be all right 
when 1 tell her/' 

"Camilla isn't at home/' faltered Jane. 

"Camilla isn't at home?" 

"No, she has gone to Boston. She went 
over to Barnstable to get the noon train." 
With that Jane began crying. 

Eugene was silent for a minute. His 
bright face had the obscured look of a flower 
when the shadow of a cloud passes over it, 
but it soon cleared. He looked at Camilla's 
sister, who stood before him, balancing herself 
painfully on her unequal limbs, trying to 
control her tears, and he laughed with his 
unconquerable gay ety and good humor. 

"Oh, well," said Eugene, "if Camilla has 
gone to Boston, she has lost a fine drive, and 
why don't you go instead, Jane?" 

"Me?" 

"Yes, why not? Run and put on your 
hat, for the horse doesn't like to stand. The 
flies plague him." 

When people saw Eugene Holding driving 
with Jane Rose instead of her sister, they 
could not credit their own eyes. Indeed, 
several were always incredulous, and believed 
it to have been Camilla, and the plain girl at- 
tired in a hat and gown like her beautiful 
140 



PRINCE'S-FEATHER 



sister's did bear at a distance a curious re- 
semblance to her. It was the same resem- 
blance which a misshapen flower bears to an- 
other of the same family. They skimmed 
along the smooth country road. 

Suddenly Eugene cast a startled look at 
his companion. "Why, you look like Ca- 
milla, Jane!" he cried. "I declare you do. 
Did any one ever tell you so?" 

"No/' gasped Jane. 

"Well, you do/' said Eugene, "and I de- 
clare, Jane, you look more like her than you 
did when 1 spoke first. 1 want to show you 
these seeds 1 have got. It's odd that Camilla 
should have thought I have lost my pros- 
pects." 

To this poor little Jane the prospect of a 
crown and a throne would have been as noth- 
ing beside the fact of the prince. Eugene 
married Jane the 1st of September. In 
the mean time Camilla returned from Bos- 
ton betrothed to another man. She had al- 
ways more than one string to her bow. Eu- 
gene heard the news with a face which de- 
fied the scrutiny of even Jane's jealous eyes. 
He did not shun Camilla at all ; he even 
jested about her engagement and his own. 

"You would not have me, Camilla/' he 
141 



UNDERSTUDIES 



said, "because you thought my prospects 
were changed. You were wrong as to that, 
for my prospects are not changed ; they are 
better than ever. But that has nothing to do 
with it. We are both suited, after all. I 
hear you will have a fine husband, and as for 
me, I'm going to be in your family, just the 
same. I've got your sister, and she's a dar- 
ling. I never dreamed what a darling she 
was, and I would never have known if it 
hadn't been for you. She is going to make 
me a wonderful wife, and she looks like you." 

Camilla stared at him, but he smiled back 
at her. He was speaking from the depths of 
his impregnable and innocently unconscious 
egotism, which surpassed her own, and she 
felt herself overmatched. 

Later on Eugene's wife became an invalid. 
Her peevishness increased, and even love 
and happiness could not transform her. Eu- 
gene would have led a sorry life with her had 
he known it, but he never did. He firmly 
believed that he had the loveliest and most 
amiable wife in the world. His vegetable 
scheme failed ; then he tried bees, then small 
fruits. Everything failed except his hope 
and faith in himself and his future success. 
That never for a moment failed him. There 
142 



The most amiable wife in the world 



PRINCE' S-FEATHER 



was something splendid about the man. He 
became, as it were, a very Napoleon of his 
own fortunes. Nothing in the hand of fate 
could daunt him. He was invulnerable to 
circumstances, half laughed at, half ad- 
mired by all who knew him. His mother 
died, his means decreased, he often went 
without the necessaries of life, his house, 
which he had so improved, became a shabby 
travesty on his former fortunes, he grew old, 
but new mountain-tops of hope never failed 
to enliven his failing eyes and encourage 
his faltering feet. 

The garden at the right of the Holding 
house grew old, unplanted, and untended, 
but the prince 's-feather never failed to come 
to the front, proudly waving in all its first 
splendor above the disordered hosts of flow- 
ers and weeds. And always to the front in 
the unfailing spring of all his winters of de- 
feat pressed the man, raising aloft his shining 
head, which never grew bald, nor gray, nor 
wise, as many believed, perhaps justly, hav- 
ing that inconsequence which is fatal to suc- 
cess, yet blessed with that fairy gift held by 
few — the power of keeping unbroken, with all 
its rainbow hues intact, the bubble of his own 
life. 



ARETHUSA 



ARETHUSA 

T N whatever month Arethusa, the nymph 
of Elis, fled from her lover Alphe- 
us, the river god, her namesake the flow- 
er, pursued and overtaken by her des- 
tiny of life, arrived in May. She paused 
on the border of the marsh, tremulous in 
the soft spring wind, clad in her single 
leaf-gown of green, drooping delicately 
her lovely head, exhaling her sweet breath 
deeply, like one who pants after running, 
until it might well have betrayed her pres- 
ence. But it is seldom that any man 
sees the flower arethusa, for she comes 
rarely to secluded places, and blooms to 
herself. Of all the spring flowers, arethusa 
is one of the rarest and the most beautiful 
of the great wild orchid family to which 
she belongs; she is the maiden. In that 
great orchid family are many flowers in 
semblances of strange and uncanny things, 
147 



UNDERSTUDIES 



of fiends, and elves, and dragons, and un- 
classed beings, but arethusa comes in the 
likeness of a fair and delicate nymph. 
There is about her no horror of the gro- 
tesque and unnatural, only tender, timid 
bloom, and maybe a gentle dread of love 
and a repellent curve of her rosy lip. 

Every spring when arethusa appeared 
there came another maiden to visit her in 
her shy fastness. She belonged to a family 
living on the country road, a mile across 
the fields. It was a rough way to travel, 
but the girl trod it with the zeal of one 
friend hastening to see another for the first 
time after a long absence. She was small 
and spare, with a thin, rosy-cheeked face, 
and a close-braided cap of silky dark hair. 
Everything about the girl except her hair 
seemed fluttering and blowing. She wore 
ruffled garments of thin fabrics, and she 
walked swiftly with a curious movement 
of her delicate shoulder-blades, almost as 
if they were propelling her like wings. Her 
eyes had an intent expression of joyful 
anticipation and unrestrained impulse of 
motion. She wore gay -colored gowns — 
blues, and pinks, and greens — and she was 
exquisitely dainty. She was an only 
148 




' There came another maiden to visit her 



ARETHUSA 

daughter, and her mother's chief delight 
was to adorn her with fine needle -work. 
This needle - work seemed the only fully 
opened gate between the mother and the 
daughter, for their two natures were so 
widely at variance that even love could only 
cramp them painfully together. The mother 
was a farmer's widow, carrying on a great 
farm with a staff of hired men and a farmer. 
She was shrewd and emulative, with a 
stead}^ eye and ready elbow for her place 
in the ranks. The only fineness of detail 
about her was her love for dainty needle- 
work and her delight in applying it to the 
decoration of love. Through the long sum- 
mer afternoons the mother used to sit beside 
her window, plying her needle on fine cam- 
brics, and linens, and muslins, and felt 
vaguely that by so doing she kept herself 
more nearly abreast with the object of her 
love and adoration. Sometimes she used 
to sigh in a bewildered fashion when she 
saw the girl, whose name was Lucy, flut- 
tering away across the field, for she was 
to her incomprehensibly fond of long solitary 
walks; then she would turn for a solace 
to the fine hem of her frock, and so seem to 
follow at a little distance. As for the girl, 
149 



UNDERSTUDIES 



when she danced away across the fields, 
a curious sense of flight from she knew not 
what was always over her. Her heart 
beat fast. She half amused, half terrified 
herself with the sound of imaginary foot- 
steps behind her. When she reached the 
green marsh, she felt safe, both from real 
and imaginary pursuers. 

Arethusa stood on the border of the marsh, 
else the girl could not have penetrated to 
her hiding-place. Once there, she stooped 
and looked at her. She bent over her and 
inhaled her fragrant breath, which seemed 
to her like a kiss of welcome. She never 
picked the flower. She never quite knew 
why she did not. 

"There is such a beautiful flower in the 
swamp now/' she told her mother. 

"Where is it?" asked her mother. 

" Oh, in the swamp." 

"Didn't you pick it?" 

"Oh no." 

"Why didn't you?" 
"1 don't know." 

"Well, Edson will go after supper and 
get it for you; ma3^be there are more," said 
her mother. 

"Oh no, no!" the girl cried out, in terror, 
150 



ARETHUSA 



"1 wouldn't have it picked for anything, 
mother. It would die then, and it is such 
a beautiful flower!" 

"You are a queer child/' her mother 
said, adoringly but wonderingly. 

"Let me try on your new dress now; 
1 can't sew the sleeves in till 1 do." 

When Lucy slipped her thin girlish arms 
into the ruffled muslin, she cried out with 
delight. "Why, that is just the color of 
the flower!" she said. 

"You ought to have it to wear with it 
to the party to-morrow night, then," said 
her mother. 

"Oh, mother, 1 wouldn't have it picked 
for anything!" cried Lucy. Lucy did not 
want to go to the party, though she would 
not tell her mother so, She was gently 
acquiescent towards all wishes of others. 
Indeed, the girl herself seemed but a mild 
acquiescence towards existence and the gen- 
eral scheme thereof. She had no more vi- 
tal interest in the ordering of daily village 
and domestic life than the flower arethusa 
over in the swamp. With her feet of a 
necessity in the mould, her head seemed 
thrust well outside the garden-pale of com- 
mon life. 

151 



UNDERSTUDIES 



She had no real mates among girls of 
her age. Her mother was anxious that 
she should have, and had made little parties 
for her, but from the first, even when she 
was a child, Lucy had never come out of 
her corner of gentle aloofness. 

When it came to lovers, the girl's beau- 
ty and sweetness and prospective property 
had lured many, but one after another 
withdrew, strangely discomfited. They 
might as well have sat on a meadow -stone 
and wooed a violet as this girl. She was 
unfailingly sweet, but utterly unresponsive. 
The village young men began to say that 
Lucy Greenleaf wasn't as smart as some. 
They could explain in no other way her 
lack of comprehension of that untaught 
but self-evident language of love and pas- 
sion in which they had addressed her. 

However, when Edson Abbot came, he 
was persistent, both because he was in- 
credulous as to any girl being unlike other 
girls, and because he always seized with 
a grip, which made his own fate, upon 
anything which seemed about to elude him. 

" 1 wish she would fancy you, Edson, but 
I'm afraid it isn't any use/' Mrs. Greenleaf 
told him. 

152 



ARETHUSA 



"A girl's fancy depends mostly upon a 
man's/' he replied, "and I can hold my 
fancy to the wheel longer than some men. 
I shouldn't have given up like Willy Slo- 
sum." 

"It isn't so much because she won't 
as because she neither won't nor will/' 
said her mother, with a sigh of bewilder- 
ment. This woman, who had been insen- 
sibly trained b}^ all her circumstances of 
life to regard a husband like rain in its sea- 
son, or war, or a full harvest, or an epidemic, 
something to be accepted without question 
if offered, whether good or bad, as sent by 
the will of the Lord, and who had herself 
promptly accepted a man with whom she 
was not in love, without the least hesitation, 
and lived as happily as it was in her nature 
to live ever after, could not possibly com- 
prehend the nature of her own daughter. 

She w^as, moreover, with that passionate 
protectiveness which was the strongest 
feature of her mother-love, anxious to see 
this little ewe lamb of hers well settled in 
life with some one to shield her from its 
storms before she herself was taken from 
her. Edson Abbot, the young man who 
took charge of the farm and lived with 
153 



UNDERSTUDIES 



them, entirely filled her ideal of what Lucy's 
husband should be. He was handsome, 
with a strong masculine description of 
good looks which appealed to her power- 
fully. He came of a fine family, but treated 
the tillage of the earth from a scientific 
stand-point. He had books and papers 
about, which were as Greek to Mrs. Green- 
leaf, but which impressed her still more 
with his unusual ability to take care of 
her darling. 

"I don't want to hurry you, Lucy/' she 
said to her daughter one day. "I know 
you ain't very strong, but Edson is one man 
in a thousand, and it doesn't seem right 
for you to let him slip through your fingers, 
just for want of a kind word. You don't 
pay any more attention to him than you do 
to that strange bush at the gate." 

Lucy looked at her mother, then at the 
syringa-bush standing, all clothed in white 
like a bride, at the gate. 

"What do you want me to do, mother?" 
she asked. 

"Do, child? Why, treat Edson Abbot 
the way any other girl in this town would 
treat him, and give all her old shoes for 
the chance." 

154 




" ' Do you mean for me to kiss him ? * " 



ARETHUSA 



The soft red mounted slowly over the 
girl's face, as she still looked at her 
mother. 

"Do you mean for me to kiss him?" whis- 
pered she. " I don't feel as if I could." 

A swift blush came over the older woman's 
face. She laughed, half in embarrass- 
ment, half in dismay. "I never saw such 
a baby in my life as you be/' said she; 
"will you never be anything but a baby, 
Lucy? It scares me to think of leavin' 
you some day, if you ain't different. You 
ain't fit to take care of yourself, and Edson 
is a good man, and he thinks a heap of you, 
and mother wants to make sure you're 
taken care of — that's all. Don't you feel 
as if you might be willing to marry Edson 
some time if he asked you, Lucy?" 

The girl shook and trembled, and eyed 
her mother with a strange intentness as of 
fascinated fear. "Oh, mother, I don't want 
to," she said. "I don't want to marry any- 
body. I don't like men. I am afraid of 
them. I want to stay with you/' 

"You can stay with me. You can go 
right on living with me, dear child. You 
shall never leave mother as long as she 
lives, and she will never leave you." 

155 



UNDERSTUDIES 



"I want to just live with you/' said Lucy; 
"I don't like men/' 

"Girls are apt to feel that way/' said 
her mother, "but you'd come to feel dif- 
ferent after a while. It's the way people 
were meant to do; to be married and given 
in marriage. You know what it says in 
the Bible. And then you would be sure 
to have somebody to take care of you as 
long as you live." 

"Wouldn't I have God?" asked Lucy, 
with an indescribably innocent rounding of 
her soft eyes at her mother. 

"God sends people to take care of folks/' 
replied her mother, judicially. "He can't 
come down to earth and see to it that your 
fires are kindled, and your paths shovelled 
out, and your wood chopped, and all the 
heavy things of life lifted off your shoulders. 
Think of the way Susan Dagget lives." 

Lucy was unconvinced and unmoved by 
all this reasoning. She was much more 
convinced by the steady broadside of a 
strong masculine will brought skilfully 
to bear upon her at all times and seasons. 
Edson Abbot was a most able young man, 
of great strength of character, and even 
some talent. He was something of a dip- 

156 




14 The last assertion of her maiden freedom 



ARETHUSA 

lomat in his wooing. He never frightened 
this fine, timid creature, who never looked 
at him without the impulse of flight in her 
eyes, like a rabbit or a bird. He was ex- 
ceedingly gentle, but she was made to feel 
always his firm, unrelaxing will towards 
her, and his demand for her obedience. 
Whenever he saw that his presence was 
awakening beyond control the wild im- 
pulses which always underlie timidity, he 
pressed her no further; he withdrew, but 
when she needed him he was always there. 

Insensibly, she began to depend upon 
him for services which had always come 
from her mother. Then he had a ready skill 
to invent some of his own. It was Edson 
who conceived the idea of a wild garden for 
her in a corner of the field, who had a minia- 
ture pond of lilies made for her for a birth- 
day surprise. Lucy acquired the habit of 
looking at him as she had always looked 
at her mother for confirmation and encourage- 
ment. He humored her in all her little 
idiosyncrasies. When her mother feared 
to have her take a long, solitary ramble, 
since a tramp had been seen in the neigh- 
borhood, he took her part and bade her 
go, and himself followed, unseen, at a dis- 
157 



UNDERSTUDIES 



tance to protect her. She came gradually 
to think of him as always on her side, even 
against her own mother. When one day 
he again asked her to marry him, though 
she still looked at him with flight in her 
eyes, she listened. He pleaded well, for, 
although he wondered at himself, he loved 
this slight, frail girl, who, in comparison 
with others of her age and time, seemed 
either to have scarcely arrived upon the 
same level or to have passed it. 

Edson got no answer to his suit that 
night, but the next, coming home from the 
village, he saw a white flutter at the gate, 
and Lucy came slowly down the road to 
meet him. It was the first time such a 
thing had happened. It was full moon- 
light, and he could see her face quite plainly 
when she reached him and paused. It 
expressed the utmost gentleness and docile 
assent; only her body, which still shrank 
away from him, and her little hands, which 
she kept behind her like a child who will 
not yield up some sweet, betrayed any- 
thing of her old alarm. ''I will/' she said, 
tremulously; "I will, Edson. Mother says 
I ought to, and I will/' 

It was not a very flattering acceptance 

158 



ARETHUS A 



of a lover's suit, but if the grasp of pos- 
session be strong enough it precludes the 
realization of any lack of pressure on the 
other hand. Edson found no fault with 
it. His heart seemed fairly to leap forward 
and encompass the girl, but he no more 
dared touch her than he would have touched 
a butterfly which had settled upon his hand. 
He could always keep a straight course 
on the road to his own desires. " You shall 
never regret it, darling/' he said, and so con- 
trolled his voice, even then, that only a look 
of startled wonder came into the girl's eyes. 
Then she walked home with him content- 
edly enough, fluttering along at his side. 
There was undoubtedly something about 
the love and tenderness of this handsome, 
strong fellow which pleased her after a 
fashion. She had something in common 
with others of her sex. She might be cold, 
if such a negative state could be called 
cold, but she loved, or she had not dwelt 
on the earth at all. It was only when 
he pursued her too ardently that she re- 
belled. 

Edson and Lucy went in to the girl's 
mother, who began to cry when she saw 
them coming. " Oh, you dear child ; mother 
159 



UNDERSTUDIES 



is so glad/' she said, and held Lucy closely 
and kissed her. 

After Mrs. Greenleaf had gone to bed, 
the young man and the girl sat side by side 
on the door-step in the moonlight. Her 
little hands were folded in her lap. He 
looked longingly at them. 

Suddenly Lucy spoke, fixing her child- 
like eyes fully upon his face. 

"1 found that beautiful flower, for the 
first time this year, to-day in the swamp/' 
said she. 

''What flower, sweet?" Edson asked, 
and took advantage of the unwariness of 
her thoughts to lay his hand over hers, 
which fluttered a little. 

"Ought 1 to let you hold my hand be- 
cause you are going to marry me?" said 
she. 

"Of course. Go on. What was the flow- 
er, darling?" 

"That beautiful flower that comes every 
spring, you know." 

"Did you bring it home?" 

"Bring it home! No, I wouldn't pick it 
for anything in the world." 

"I'D get you some to-morrow; 1 guess 
I know the flower you mean. The swamp 
160 



ARETH USA 



is too wet for you to go far. I will find a 
whole bouquet of those flowers for you/' 

Lucy pulled her hand away fiercely. 
" If — if you do that, if you pick that flower, 
1 — 1 will never marry you, Edson Abbot/' 

The young man laughed, though a little 
uneasily. For the first time a doubt as 
to the actual normal mental state of the 
girl came into his mind, then he dismissed 
it. She was simply, as he had told himself 
a hundred times, poetical and ultra-imagi- 
native, a fine elusive moonlight sort of nat- 
ure, grafted into the shrewd, practical New 
England stock. She was like a maiden out 
of a midsummer -night dream, but she was 
only the more precious for that. "Darling," 
he said, " I would no more pick that flower, 
if you did not want me to do so, than I 
would hurt you." 

The marriage was fixed for a year later. 
Mrs. Greenleaf herself pleaded for time. 
"She is young, and not strong, Edson," 
she said. " 1 think she ought to have time 
to get used to the idea. Then, too, I want to 
make her outfit." 

Edson yielded easily enough. He him- 
self had doubts as to the wisdom of swift 
proceeding with Lucy. Then, too, he was 
L l6l 



UNDERSTUDIES 

ambitious. He was putting in some hot- 
houses, and he wished to be sure of a larger 
income before settling himself in matrimony. 
He had put in some money, and was to work 
the farm on shares. Mrs. Greenleaf grew 
prouder than ever of her prospective son- 
in-law. She was thoroughly happy. She 
stitched away on Lucy's dainty garments, 
and every stitch seemed one towards the com- 
pletion of her own wedding attire. She 
had never been in love herself, and now 
that came to her for the first time, through 
her loving imagination over her daughter. 
Edson Abbot was the sort of man whom 
she might herself have loved, and she, 
being so bound up in unselfish love for the 
girl, could in a measure grasp all her hap- 
piness, and so, in a sense, she grasped her 
lover. 

As for Lucy, she did not seem unhappy. 
She was peaceful and docile. She sewed 
a little on her wedding clothes, she went 
walking and driving with Edson, she sat 
with him sometimes a little while after her 
mother had gone to bed; she always smiled 
readily at him with her sweet, evasive sort 
of smile. She acquiesced, with the great- 
est docility, in her mother's suggestion that 
162 



ARETHUSA 



she should learn something more of house- 
wifery than she had hitherto known. She 
spent hours cooking and setting the house 
in order. She had not done much of that, 
being delicate, and always shielded by her 
strong mother; and that had been one 
of the grounds of complaint against her 
in the neighborhood. Now, however, she 
surprised everybody. "She's taken hold 
as well as anybody 1 ever see/' reported 
the extra help whom Mrs. Greenleaf had 
hired Thanksgiving week. "She's real 
smart. She made as good a plum-puddin' 
as 1 ever eat." 

Indeed, there seemed to come to the girl 
an awakening either of latent cleverness 
or inherited instincts. She seemed to take 
a certain pleasure in her new tasks, and 
she thrived under them. She grew stouter ; 
her cheeks had a more fixed color. Abbot 
was triumphant. He realized less and 
less that anything was wanting to the sum 
of his happiness. Such was the force of 
his own will that, once on the turn towards 
possession, he comprehended no other coun- 
ter-current. The wedding-day was fixed 
in the month of May. The ceremony was 
to take place at eight o'clock in the even- 
163 



UNDERSTUDIES 



ing. When that hour came all the guests 
were assembled, the bridegroom, brides- 
maids, and minister were waiting, but the 
bride had disappeared. Her wedding-gown 
lay on her bed with her veil ; her little white 
shoes stood prettily toed out side by side, 
but the bride was gone. Her mother and 
Edson conferred in Lucy's chamber. 

"They mustn't know it, if we can find 
her without it/' said Mrs. Greenleaf. Her 
face was white and set; she jerked her black- 
silk elbow towards the floor, indicating the 
company assembled below. Edson looked 
palely at her. "Where do you think she 
is?" he said. 

"1 don't know. I've looked everywhere. 
She ain't in the house." 

For once Edson Abbot seemed dazed. He 
stared at Mrs. Greenleaf. 

"You don't think — " he began. 

" 1 don't know but we've made a mistake," 
said the woman, brokenly. "1 don't know 
as Lucy ought to have had anybody but her 
mother." 

Then the young man made an impatient 
exclamation. "It is too late to talk about 
that now," he said. " I'm going to find her." 

He strode out of the chamber and down 
164 



ARETHUSA 



the back stairs, lest the company see him. 
The sound of their voices floated after him 
as he slipped out of the house. He did not 
know where to begin his search, but some in- 
stinct took him into the field behind the house. 
He hastened across it, a handsome, stalwart 
figure in his wedding - suit. His face was 
pale, his brows bent; he felt as if he had 
met a wall of gossamer with a shock of ala- 
baster. The utter docility and gentleness of 
the girl made this frightful. He felt no alarm 
for her safety. He seemed to understand 
that she had set herself against him in a last 
assertion of her maiden freedom. 

The sun was low in an ineffable rosy sky, 
with dregs of violet at the horizon line. One 
great star was burning through the paling 
radiance. A fragrant, damp coolness was 
rising from the earth; a silvery film of dew 
was over all the grass. He heard in the 
distance the sound of a cow-bell and a boy 
whistling. All these familiar sights and 
sounds served to enrage this man whose 
feet were set so firmly in the regular tracks 
of life still further with this savor of the ir- 
regular and the unusual which had come to 
him. He felt for the first time a fierce im- 
pulse to bend forcibly this other will which 

165 



UNDERSTUDIES 



had come into contact with his own. He 
thought, with a sort of fury, of all those wait- 
ing people. Then he saw coming towards 
him across the field, with her singular half- 
flying motion of the shoulders and arms, 
the girl whom he was seeking. 

He strode forward rapidly to meet her, 
and grasped her roughly by her slender arm. 
"Lucy, what does this mean?" he asked, 
frowning down at her sternly. 

She looked at him with such terror that it 
intimidated him more than any defiance 
could have done. He weakened, for, after 
all, he loved her. 

"Lucy/' he said, gently, "you should not 
have gone off like this. Don't you know 
what time it is?" 

" Is it eight yet?" she gasped. 

"Of course it is, and after." 

"I thought 1 had time," she faltered. 

"Time for what?" 

" To see if that flower had come. 1 thought 
if it had, it would be gone before we get back. 
1 thought I had time, Edson." 

"You ought to have picked that flower 
just this once to wear to your wedding, you 
think so much of it," said Mrs. Greenleaf. 

"Oh, mother I" said Lucy. 

166 



ARETHUSA 



"You are a queer child/' her mother said, 
laughing in an odd, embarrassed fashion. 
Along with her great tenderness towards this 
little ewe lamb of hers, she felt that night a 
singular awe and shame and wonder, almost 
as if she herself stood in her place. 

When Lucy, in her bridal array, went down- 
stairs, people drew long breaths. 

"She looks like an angel," one woman 
whispered, so loud that many heard her. 
There was, in fact, that about the girl's 
beauty, as she floated among them in her 
bridal white, which made her seem more than 
human. She apparently did not realize that 
the eyes of all the company were upon her. 
She stood beside her bridegroom before the 
minister as unconscious as arethusa over yon- 
der in the swamp. A color as purely fine as 
the flower's was in her cheeks; in her eyes 
were as mysterious depths of sweetness. 

"She looked as handsome as a picture," 
the neighbors said, going home when the 
wedding was over and the bridal pair had 
departed. "But she don't look quite right, 
somehow. Wonder what made her so late?" 
They further mentioned this and that girl 
who, in their estimation, would have made a 
xaore reliable helpmeet than Lucy Greenleaf , 
167 



UNDERSTUDIES 



However, Lucy seemed, as time went on, 
to prove them mistaken. She filled her 
place as wife and mother well to all appear- 
ances. There were two handsome children, 
with Edson's sturdy beauty. They bore 
not the slightest resemblance to their mother. 
"They are all Edson's," Mrs. Greenleaf 
used to say. Lucy loved them, and they 
loved her, yet they went from the first more 
naturally to their father and grandmother. 

"They act more like your children than 
your daughter's/' the neighbors said. " Lucy 
takes good care of them/' her mother re- 
turned, jealously. That was quite true. 
Lucy neglected nothing and nobody. She 
performed all her duties with a fine precision. 
She seemed happy, yet always she had that 
look of her youth, the look of one who, with 
her feet on the common earth, can see past 
common horizons. And every spring she 
went by herself, when she could, stealing 
away unnoticed, to see that great orchid in 
bloom in the swamp for the first time that 
year. She never allowed her children to 
follow her ; if the little things tried to do so, 
she sent them back. Her husband also for- 
bade them, indulging, as he had always 
done, his wife in what he considered a harm- 
168 



A RET H USA 



less idiosyncrasy, not dreaming that it had 
its root in the very depths of her nature, and 
that she perhaps sought this fair neutral 
ground of the flower kingdom as a refuge 
from the exigency of life. In his full tide 
of triumphant possession he was as far from 
the realization of the truth as was Alpheus, 
the fabled river god, after he had overtaken 
the nymph Arethusa, whom, changed into 
a fountain to elude his pursuit, he had fol- 
lowed under the sea, and never knew that, 
while forever his, even in his embrace, she 
was forever her own. 

Every spring this woman, growing old as 
to her fair, faded face, went to see arethusa, 
coming upon her standing on the border of 
the marsh, clad in her green leaf, drooping 
delicately her beautiful purplish-pink head, 
with the same rapture as of old. This soul, 
bound fast to life with fleshly bonds, yet for- 
ever maiden, anomalous and rare among her 
kind, greeted the rare and anomalous flower 
with unending comfort and delight. It was 
to her as if she had come upon a fair rhyme 
to her little halting verse of life. 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



ADD'S MOUNTAIN was to the east- 



L/ ward of the village, consequently the 
sun rose behind it. When the full radiance 
crowned it at last, the dewy depths of the 
shadows were revealed; great nrpsterious 
lights as of the very watch-fires of the day 
gleamed out, and here and there silver 
threads of mountain torrents dazzled as 
with diamonds. But the laurel, of course, 
could not be seen from the village ; only to 
the f arer in the mountain - ways were its 
gorgeous thickets displayed. There was 
a marvellous growth of it on Ladd's Moun- 
tain. Young people used to make parties 
to climb the mountain, and go home laden 
with great bunches of the superb chintz- 
patterned blossoms. In the winter its 
glossy evergreen leaves were in high de- 
mand for Christmas wreaths and decora- 
tions. But Samuel Ladd was the one who set 




173 



UNDERSTUDIES 



the greatest value upon it. It had reached 
for him its highest beauty, being more 
to him than itself, and having, in a sense, 
flowered out beyond its own natural scope, 
in a far-reaching influence upon a human 
soul. 

Samuel Ladd actually owned the moun- 
tain, and was land-poor in the fullest sense. 
Formerly a wide stretch of fertile meadows 
on the river -bank below had belonged to 
his family ; now only the mountain remained. 
There was scarcely an acre of hay or past- 
urage on its rocky sides. Even the wood 
was of scanty growth and undesirable kinds. 
There was more laurel than anything else 
on Ladd's Mountain. 

The Ladd house was half-way up the 
southern slope of the mountain, where the 
rough road ended and the rougher path 
to the summit began. The house stood 
on a narrow level of cultivated fields, a 
natural terrace of the mountain. There 
Samuel Ladd had been born, and there he 
had lived his whole life ; he was nearl\ T forty 
years old. He had been one of a large 
family — six brothers and three sisters — 
but every one was gone. Only the two 
oldest sisters had lived until middle life. 
174 



MOUNTAIN -LAUREL 

They — two round - shouldered, hopeless, 
patient - faced women — died of consump- 
tion when Samuel was in his twenties. 
After that he lived alone, except during 
the busy season of the year, when he hired 
help from the village. Although a young 
man, he never sought companions. He 
never cared for any of the village merry- 
makings. Through the long winter even- 
ings and the long storms he remained alone 
over his one fire, listening to the shriek- 
ing of the mountain wind around the old 
f ami-house, but he was never, in the fullest 
sense, lonely. He possessed an imagina- 
tion that, joined to the other qualities of 
brain needful, might have made him a great 
poet. To this man none of his family were 
really dead, but lived in a sublimated and 
wonderful fashion. His father's poor body 
lay in the graveyard over in the village, 
but in his stead sat, for the son's fancy, 
in his old place beside the hearth, a splen- 
did, stalwart figure, radiant with the enjoy- 
ment of life ; and instead of the feeble and 
worn mother was a grand creature as full 
of strength and grace as a mountain pine. 
And the two round-shouldered women, his 
sisters, who had dragged away their love- 
175 



UNDERSTUDIES 



less lives in this mountain solitude, reap- 
peared to the fair fancy of their young brother 
in all their lost loveliness and hope of youth. 
Samuel never imagined them as they had 
really been but always as they might have 
been had time and trouble not touched 
them. One might have wondered if the 
boy, through his affection, had always 
seen his lost dear ones as he afterwards 
pictured them to himself, and had actually 
never realized their true aspects in other 
eyes. 

On moonlight nights in summer, as he sat 
peacefulh T on the step of the door overlook- 
ing the valley, seeing the village below 
as through the waves of a shifting silver 
flood, his beautiful 3 T oung sisters used to 
come and sit beside him, and, as the}^ talked 
together, Samuel's sisters were much more 
companions for him dead than when living, 
since he was so at liberty to reanimate them 
into accord with himself. In life, they had 
paid little attention to their younger brother. 
They had had their whole strength taken 
and exhausted by their treadmill of narrow 
duties, and the slow grinding of their hearts 
on the wheel of disappointment of the main 
ends of life. They had become breathing 
176 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



inanities of women, neither kind nor unkind, 
neither gloomy nor cheerful, sunken into 
as stupidly selfish regard of their own 
standing and feeding places as cows. But 
Samuel had invested them both, when they 
were gone, and, maybe, when they were 
still drudging along their narrow paths 
of earth, with such garments of glory that 
they had not known themselves in them, 
not even in their dim orthodox imagina- 
tions of their future harped and winged 
estates. Their brother made of them shapes 
infinitely more desirable than those of their 
own conception, and transcended, as love can 
often do, their dreams even of their own 
good. 

When, one day some ten years after his 
last sister had died, a party of young people 
came up the mountain, and among them 
was a strange young girl, such a beauty 
that people turned to look after her, Samuel 
astonished the man w T ho was working for 
him that summer by remarking that that 
girl looked like his sister Eunice. 

"What?" cried the man, with an in- 
credulous stare. He was a young fellow 
of about Samuel's age, full of stolid energy 
like an ox. He was a good farm-hand, 
M 177 



UNDERSTUDIES 



and was earning enough money to buy 
a farm in the village and marry. 

"She looks as my sister Eunice used 
to," said Samuel. 

"Your sister Eunice? Good Lord!" cried 
the man. "Your sister Eunice? Why, 
your sister Eunice was as thin as a lath, 
and stooped till she was most double, and 
her skin was yellow as saffron, and her 
eves like a fish's ! That girl look like your 
sister Eunice You're stun-blind, Sammy." 

Samuel gazed at the girl, who was seat- 
ed with her companions on the stone wall 
across the road, resting before they began 
the harder part of the ascent. He com- 
pared her laughing eyes, her sweet, rosy 
cheeks and lips, her yellow hair, her lovely 
young shoulders, with his memory of his 
poor dead sister's, and, wrought upon by 
some divine alchemy of love, he found the 
same likeness as before. "I should almost 
take her for Eunice, if I didn't know," he 
said, with mild persistenc}^. 

"You're a fool," said the hired man. 

Samuel made no reply; he was meditat- 
ing, his forehead knitted over his deep-set, 
pale -blue eyes. When the party had left 
their resting-place on the stone wall, and 

i 7 8 



MOUNTAIN - LAUREL 



had disappeared up the mountain-path, he 
went promptly into the house. 

"Ben't 3'ou goin' to turn that hay?" the 
hired man called after him, wonderingly. 

"No/' said Samuel, gently but decisively. 
The hired man stood staring a moment, 
after the door closed behind Samuel, then he 
whistled and slouched off to the hay -field 
at the right of the house. 

When the little party returned, Samuel was 
dressed in his best : he had shaved and 
brushed his long, sallow locks, he had put on 
a clean shirt, with an obsolete, rasping col- 
lar, and a tie which his sister Eunice had 
made for him out of a piece of her black-silk 
dress. His suit was one which had belonged 
to his father, and it hung in loose folds on his 
lank figure. Besides all this, Samuel wore in 
his button-hole a sprig of mountain-laurel. 
The long-unused parlor was open, and the 
paper curtains flapped in the wind like flow- 
ered green sails. The hired man out in the 
field saw them blowing, and made an errand 
around to the front of the house to get a drink 
of water from the well in the yard. He gulped 
it down, with long stares over the brim of the 
dipper. When he passed the parlor windows, 
he cast a shrewd and comprehensive stare 
179 



UNDERSTUDIES 



at the interior and went on, whistling again. 
Samuel had set a great glass pitcher of milk 
on the mahogany card-table in the parlor. 
He had looked forlornly in his bachelor larder 
for some dainty to accompany the milk, but 
there was nothing except cold vegetables, 
a ham-bone, some eggs, and cheese. Then 
he had searched the cellar, and brought up, 
triumphantly, two little tumblers of currant- 
jelly which had survived since his sister Eu- 
nice's time. He set these out on the card- 
table beside the milk, with six of the best 
china plates, and six teaspoons. After that 
he hastened out behind the house and broke 
off branches of the mountain-laurel, which 
was in full blossom. He filled an old copper- 
gilt pitcher, which was precious, though he 
did not know it, with the laurel, and stuck 
the sprig in his coat. Then he was ready. 

He stood on his front door-step when the 
four girls and the two young men who made 
up the party reached it. He was flaming 
with bashfulness, but resolute in his pur- 
pose. He invited them all in to have some 
refreshment. There was a moment's hesi- 
tation; the girls stared at him, then at one 
another, with covert smiles. Samuel Ladd's 
name had become a synonym in the village 
180 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



for rustic uncouthness and abashedness, 
and this was unprecedented. Then the 
beaut} 7 , who was a school-teacher from an- 
other town, took the lead. She accepted the 
invitation promptly, and followed Samuel 
into the house and the best parlor. Covert 
smiles became, in the case of two hysterical 
girls, almost open merriment at the sight of 
the refreshment spread before them, but the 
school-teacher's manner was perfect. 

"How delicious!" she cried; "new milk! 
And 1 don't know when 1 have had any cur- 
rant-jelly! It is currant-jelly, isn't it, Mr. 
Ladd? Yes, 1 thought so." 

When the guests left, the school-teacher 
bore in triumph the beautiful copper-gilt 
pitcher which she had admired, and which 
Samuel had urged upon her acceptance. 
One of the young men carried for her the 
great bouquet of mountain-laurel. Samuel 
stood looking after them. He had never 
been in his whole life so happy after the 
fashion of other men. 

That evening he stole down the mountain 
to the farm-house at the foot where the school- 
teacher boarded. He was going courting 
for the first time in his life. He was dressed 
in his best ; he wore an ancient silk hat which 
181 



UNDERSTUDIES 



had belonged to his father when a \~oung man, 
he had a fresh sprig of laurel in his button- 
hole, and he carried a superb bunch of it. 

But just as he reached the gate of the farm- 
house where the school-teacher boarded an- 
other man was going up the flower-bordered 
path to the front door, and he recognized him 
as one of the party who had climbed the 
mountain in the afternoon. He was a stran- 
ger from the city who was in the village on 
some engineering business. 

Samuel waited in the shadow of a bush at 
the gate until the other man had been admit- 
ted, then he turned away, but not before Airs. 
Cutting, the woman of the house, had espied 
him. She was crossing the road from the 
field with a basket of greens, and she hailed 
him. " Hullo, Samuel!" said she; " couldn't 
you get in? The school-teacher is there. 1 
should have thought she would have gone 
to the door. Did you knock?'' Samuel 
stood before the woman, and he seemed to 
be settling down into his very toots with 
an abashedness which was almost ignominy. 
"1 guess 1 won't go in/'' said he. "1 guess 
she's got company." 

Mrs. Cutting laughed significantly. 

" Well, mebbe you'd better not, if lie's come* 
182 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



said she. "It's Mr. Crane, 1 s'pose. He's 
payin' attention to her. He comes every 
night. Mebbe you'd better not go in — still, 
as long as you've come — " 

"I guess I won't go in," replied Samuel, 
with a pathetic, breathless kind of dignity. 
He was quite pale. He extended the great 
bunch of laurel. "Mebbe you'll give her 
these flowers by-and-by, when he's gone," 
said he. 

"Land!" cried the woman, "she's got a 
bunch as big as my head now. I don't see 
what she can do with any more. But she'll 
be jest as much obliged to you, Samuel." 

"All right," said Samuel. 

Samuel went up the mountain with his 
despised offering of laurel. When he reached 
the terrace upon which his house stood, he 
paused and looked down over the valley, 
the cultivated fields and gardens, the river, 
and the white village beyond, all waver- 
ing under the silver film of moonlight into 
outlines of imaginary beauty. "Seems to 
me I never knew this house stood so high," 
he muttered. Without knowing it, he had 
reached a new spiritual outlook, and even 
a material landscape seemed farther be- 
neath his material mountain. 

183 



UNDERSTUDIES 



There was still a pained expression on 
his face when he entered his house, but 
it vanished at once. A moonbeam lay 
athwart the kitchen floor, and in it stood, 
white and fair, and radiant with smiles, 
beautiful beyond her utmost compass of 
pretty youthfulness, the same girl who 
was at that moment sitting with her lover 
in the farm-house in the valley. 

"Lord, I forgot that/' said Samuel Ladd. 
"I can always have her this way as long 
as 1 live." 

Presently the few people who came up 
the mountain wondered what had started 
Samuel Ladd fixing up his house. He 
took a little hoard from the savings-bank, 
put the old place in perfect repair, and 
made some improvements. There was a 
new portico at the front door, with a climb- 
ing-rose trained over it ; lace curtains swayed 
at the parlor windows. People began to 
surmise that Samuel Ladd was going to 
get married, but they were at a loss for the 
bride. None of them dreamed that the 
man had refurnished his house, not for a 
bride, but for a home for the most precious 
imagination of his soul. And the refurnish- 
ing did not extend to his house alone, for 
184 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



ever afterwards he was dainty, even to 
punctiliousness, in his attire. Xo man in 
the village wore more carefully brushed 
and mended clothes, or was more religiously 
shaven, and that, although he lived days 
and weeks on his solitary farm with no 
human eye to look upon him. 

The pretty school-teacher did not return 
after the close of the spring term. She 
married the young engineer, and went to 
live in a distant city. Samuel saw the 
notice of her marriage in the paper; he cut 
it out and pasted it on a fly-leaf of his copy 
of Paradise Lost. He hesitated awhile be- 
tween that and the Bible, but finally de- 
cided in favor of the former. Samuel had 
a small assortment of books, mostly of 
a religious character, with the exception 
of a history of Massachusetts. He cared 
especially for the Bible and the Milton. 
The Milton he pored over for hours at a 
time, but mostly for purposes of comparison 
after he began to write himself, which he 
did soon after the school-teacher left the 
village. This pretty, usual girl became, 
without knowing it, in a humble, almost 
ludicrous, fashion, a species of Laura to 
this rustic, inglorious Petrarch. Almost 

185 



UNDERSTUDIE S 

simultaneously with Samuel LadcTs love 
there awakened within him that desire 
which has from all time awakened in such 
wise — to achieve and succeed and win fame 
for love s sake. This male of his species 
had found, along with his love, his song, 
albeit it was a poor and discordant one. 
He looked at the laurel bushes, and a faint 
conception of their eternal symbolism came 
to him. He had no creative talent, so he 
followed the one poet whom he knew, afar 
off, with pompous halts and hitches of imi- 
tation. He filled reams of foolscap with 
trite sentiments and weighty platitudes, 
in a babel of strange rhymes and sonorous 
syllables and swollen metres, Samuel was 
fond of marching up and down, either in 
his orchard or his parlor, and mouthing 
his own poetry with solemn emphasis, 
his hands clasped rigidly behind his back. 
Sometimes his hired man used to overhear 
him, and stand aloof and listen, grinning. 
Gradually the report spread that Samuel 
Ladd wasn't quite in his right mind, though 
he seemed sane enough in all his business 
dealings. Occasionally the 3'oung people 
passing the house on their way to the sum- 
mit used to hear Samuel declaiming, and 
186 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



stopped and stared and nudged one another. 
These young creatures, travelling along 
the common track of daily life, with all its 
wayside weeds as giant trees to their per- 
spectives, saw much to jest at in the pain- 
ful and futile efforts of this poor brother to 
raise himself above their level. When he 
fell back, or thought himself above when 
he was still below, they were keen to see 
the^ absurdity of it, being themselves ac- 
curately balanced to detect any eccentricity 
of orbit. However, they were kind to him. 
Often they used to stop, on their way down 
the mountain, and leave the remnants of 
their luncheons for the poor old bachelor 
with no woman to cook the village dainties 
for him. Samuel was fond of presenting 
them, in return, with copies of his poems. 

Samuel never essayed the publication of 
his poems in a legitimate fashion by a pub- 
lisher. He spent all his little savings, and 
went without necessary food, to have them 
printed at his own expense, in paper-covered 
volumes, by a local printer. These he used 
to give away; he never sold them — he was 
above that. He went about the village leav- 
ing the book at the doors, and it was the 
proudest day of his whole life. He knew of 

i8 7 



UNDERSTUDIES 



nothing wanting, not even the girl whom he 
loved. He was conscious of possessing 
something beyond her, which still included 
her — that which he had made of himself for 
her sake. 

One May, long after the pretty school- 
teacher had married and gone away, she 
came back to the village, and one afternoon 
she joined a party for climbing the mountain 
and gathering laurel. Samuel, sitting in his 
doorway, saw her, and never knew her ; and 
she had forgotten him. She had grown old, 
and all her pretty individualities, her dia- 
mond facets of character, had been rubbed 
smooth into utter commonness by the friction 
of an utterly common life. Her youthful 
bloom had gone, and something more — the 
essential perfume which had crowned and 
winged the bloom. Samuel looked at her as 
she passed, then he turned away; and she 
looked at him, and turned away also. 

"That's Samuel Ladd," said a woman at 
her side. "He writes poetry; he's sort of 
crazy." 

" He looks queer," assented the other. She 
had seen neither Samuel as he was, nor be- 
side him her own glorified image, that self to 
which she could never attain on earth, fade- 
188 



MOUNTAIN-LAUREL 



less in transcendent youth, while she, coarse 
and common, passed on. Samuel held a 
volume of his poems in his hand; he had 
been reading them aloud to himself. Utter 
dross though they might be, they had yet not 
failed in the mission of perfect art. They 
had filled a soul with the conviction of work 
well done and the elation of success. After 
all, the worker is more than the work, and he 
who does his best with poor tools may crown 
himself with genuine laurels. 

Samuel had planted laurel closely around 
his house, and his windows were almost hid- 
den by it. All Samuel's rooms were, sum- 
mer and winter, in a green twilight with the 
laurel, as was perhaps his mind. He loved 
it at all times, but especially in its blooming 
season as now. 

Between those great bushes, resplendent 
with their white and rosy stars and evergreen 
leaves, sat the poor poet and lover, who had 
fed all his life upon the honey in his own soul 
in lieu of any other, and perhaps nourished 
himself to his own waste, but to his own hap- 
piness. No happier soul was there in the 
valley below, no happier soul ever came May- 
ing up the mountain-side. Sitting there be- 
neath the shade of his splendid symbolic 
189 



UNDERSTUDIES 



flowers, with his fadeless ideal to wife, and 
his consciousness of an artist soul invincible 
by any poverty of art, he was one of the hap- 
piest crowned heads in the world. 



PEONY 



PEONY 



HE peony returned with the rose to 



her old haunt in the garden. The 
garden was in the front yard; the long 
rectangle on either side of the front walk 
was laid out in box-bordered beds of flowers, 
prominent among which were the roses 
and the peonies. The roses were the old- 
fashioned kinds — great single red and white 
ones and blushing-roses. The peonies were 
themselves exaggerated copies of the roses, 
like coarse country wenches following in the 
track of the queen, clad in a tawdry, flaunt- 
ing imitation of her fine, royal splendor. 
They, too, were colored red and a delicate 
rose and white, and their great petals curved 
like the rose's, but they had nothing of her 
subtle fragrance. However, Arabella Lam- 
bert did not believe that. To her the strong 
sweetness of the rose-colored and the white 
ones, and the simple odor of the red, full of 




N 



193 



UNDERSTUDIES 



the healthy virility of the flower, was much 
finer than the scent of the rose. 

She was fond of plunging her face into 
the great inflorescence of color, and inhaling 
with loud sniffs of rapture. "Folks that 
want to smell of roses, can/' she was wont 
to say. "Roses to me are sickish, and apt 
to give a head-cold. To my mind, the peony 
goes far beyond them, and it is enough sight 
handsomer flower, too. Roses is short-lived, 
and apt to be eat by rose-bugs. Look at 
them blushing - roses ; it's seldom they ever 
blow out perfect; but look at the peonies!" 

The neighbor to whom she was descant- 
ing would profess admiration, if she were 
given to polite concealment of her own views, 
but her outside comment would be different. 
" No wonder Arabella Lambert likes peonies 
better than roses," she said; "she's as 
coarse as one. Arabella is dreadful coarse ; 
she always was." 

All around Arabella lived extreme types 
of her countrywomen, thin and pale, with 
closely shut, thin lips, delicately sharp 
chins and noses, and high, narrow fore- 
heads, from which the hair was strained 
back with fierce pulls of nervous, veinous 
hands. They looked like ascetics, and 
194 



PEONY 



were, nourishing their souls only on un- 
watered and unsweetened doctrines and 
laws, and their bodies on bread and pastry. 
In them the fine and intense strain of Xew 
England obtained in full force. They were 
delicate, yet more enduring than their sturdy 
husbands and sons. The women in the vil- 
lage always outlived the men. Some of 
these women had lived so long and worked 
so hard that they seemed like automatons, 
kept in motion by some past effort of the 
will. They were the survival of the type 
of women who had breasted the early hard- 
ships of the country; their bodies were 
getting thin, but they endured through 
the might of that strong essence of spirit 
within them. 

To such women as these Arabella Lam- 
bert was an anachronism, belonging to an- 
other time and type. She was as foreign as 
if she had been born at the antipodes. This 
great, overblown, rosy. easy, sensuous creat- 
ure, who never cared whether she spent or 
saved, who never cared, nor even knew, 
whether her house was swept and garnished 
or not, who did not even seem much con- 
cerned as to the salvation of her immortal 
soul, was to them a perpetual scandal and 
195 



UNDERSTUDIES 



rock of offence. Then, too, her lack of self- 
repression, her exuberance of emotion before 
every stress of life, whether of joy or sorrow, 
shamed them with a curious vicarious 
shame. They blushed as they spoke in 
mortified whispers of this or that which 
Arabella Lambert had said or done. 

But Arabella herself never dreamed of 
their state of mind, and, if she had, would 
never have been disturbed by it. Her own 
life was enough for this woman, and yet 
it was an exceedingly simple life, consist- 
ing of little more than the simplest and 
most primitive delights. Arabella loved 
dearly to sit on her door-step, in the shade 
of her green-hooded porch, and doze; she 
loved to sleep all night in her high feather- 
bed in the south chamber; she loved to eat 
some simple fare which did not require 
much labor to prepare; she loved to potter 
around her flower-garden; and she loved 
to give things away. Arabella was as 
prodigal of her belongings as the peony 
out in the 3 T ard of its bloom. She had 
no power of reserve, whether of herself or 
her earthly possessions. When an afflicted 
neighbor came to her with an account of 
her trials, Arabella gave way to such wild 
196 



PEONY 



sympathy of grief that the woman was 
abashed and alarmed, and turned comforter 
herself ; and she gave so lavishly to tramps 
that they avoided the house, thinking she 
was crazy. Arabella lived alone in a fine 
old house filled with a goodly store of furni- 
ture still, though it had been considerably 
diminished. Arabella had had some mon- 
ey in the bank, but she had given most of 
it away. She had never married, and it 
was confidently believed that she had never 
had a chance. As one woman astutely 
remarked, if any man had ever asked Ara- 
bella to marry him, she would have felt so 
badly to say no that she would have had 
him whether she had wanted him or not. 
Arabella was believed never to have refused 
any living creature anything which she 
had the power to give, and she had had 
ample opportunities. 

Though Arabella had no nearer relatives 
than one niece, her sister's daughter, she 
had a host of far-away ones. This tender 
heart had been besieged for years by an 
army of cousins, twice and thrice removed, 
and especially the Stebbinses. Years be- 
fore, Arabella's second cousin Maria had 
married a Stebbins. He had at the time 
197 



UNDERSTUDIES 



four children by a former marriage, and 
Maria two. From this marriage came four 
more children. Now the three sets of chil- 
dren had long ago married and had families, 
and there had been few deaths, consequent- 
ly the Stebbins family, with ramifications, 
numbered a multitude. Strangers were be- 
wildered by the number of Stebbinses in 
the village. Most of them were in strait- 
ened circumstances, if not actually needy, 
and they made the most of Arabella, though 
they met with one obstacle in the shape of her 
niece, who was a smart, sharp, single woman, 
a school-teacher in a town seven miles distant. 
This niece had some property of her own and 
was earning a good salary, and so was herself 
in no need of Arabella's assistance. She kept 
as sharp a watch as possible that her aunt 
should not be robbed by her impecunious rela- 
tives. She used to say much about it to Ara- 
bella. " You know, Aunt Arabella," she would 
say, "that you have not enough yourself 
to give so much. One of these days you 
will be stranded without a cent, and nobody 
will thank you for it. There is no sense in 
your giving so much." 

"Erastus Stebbins has been real sick 
and not able to work, Sarah/' the old woman 
198 



PEONY 



replied, "and Abby Ann came over here 
and cried/' 

" Let her cry/' replied the niece. She had 
a delicate face which could be pitiless. 

"She felt dreadful bad/' said Arabella, 
and she wiped her own eyes, overflowing at 
the recollection. 

"I'd die before I'd come crying to any- 
body/' said the niece; "but that isn't all. 
You gave away all the wood on the south 
wood lot to Sam Stebbins last week, Aunt 
Arabella." 

" I had to, I really had to, Sarah," replied 
Arabella, eagerly. "Samuel's son Billy, 
he'd been and signed a note, and couldn't 
get enough money to pay, and Sam, he had 
to help him out, and it took every cent he 
had, and they were actually suffering for 
wood. They actually were, Sarah, and 
there was Billy's wife with that little baby." 

"Let them suffer, then. Better to suffer 
than to steal." 

"Oh, Sarah, it wasn't stealing." 

"Yes, it was. The door of your heart is 
always open, and they walk in and take ad- 
vantage of it," returned Sarah, stoutly. 

"But they would have suffered, Sarah — 
Billy's wife and that little baby." 

199 



UNDERSTUDIES 



"Let them suffer; it doesn't hurt people 
to suffer/' 

"But you wouldn't want that little baby- 
to freeze, Sarah?" 

"I guess they could have kept that little 
baby warm without stealing your wood/' 
replied Sarah, contracting her lips. 

She had come over to spend a week of her 
vacation with her aunt, her school having 
closed earlier than usual on account of the 
measles. The next week she was to visit a 
cousin ; then she was going on an excursion 
to the mountains. " You had better go with 
me, Aunt Arabella," she said, presently. 
" It would do you good, and it isn't going to 
cost much — only twenty-five dollars — and we 
can be gone ten days. Lottie White, the 
grammar-school teacher, is going with me, 
and you could go, too, just as well as not." 

Arabella laughed. Her enormous bulk 
quite filled up the doorway where she sat. 
Sarah was in a straight chair on the porch 
beside her. Arabella gave a facetious glance 
at the swelling slant, unbroken by any waist- 
line, which swept from under her double chin 
to her widely planted feet in their cloth slip- 
pers. "I'd look pretty climbing mountains, 
wouldn't 1?" said she. Then she laughed 
200 



'I'd look pretty climbing mountains, wouldn't If 



PEONY 



again, a hoarsely sweet chuckle disturbing 
the depths of her great body. 

Sarah did not laugh in response. She 
had not a quick sense of humor. Other 
people's laughter puzzled her much more 
than their deeds. She could discover mo- 
tives for everything else with greater suc- 
cess. ' You would not have to climb, of 
course/' she replied, gravely. "You could 
ride everywhere. Of course, you could not 
climb mountains, Aunt Arabella." 

"Well, I guess I couldn't go, anyway. 
I'm just as much obliged to you for thinkin' 
of it," said Arabella." 

"If it is the money," said Sarah, slowly, 
"I must say I don't feel right about your 
going without things to give to an able-bod- 
ied man like Sam Stebbins, but I've got 
enough, and it's only twenty-five dollars — 
and—" 

"Oh no, thank you; you're real good, 
Sarah, but I couldn't take it, nohow. I've 
got the money; it ain't that. It's only be- 
cause I don't think it's best." 

"Why don't you think it is best?" asked 
the niece, bluntly. 

Arabella colored all over her great face of 
overlapping curves like a rose or a peony. 
201 



UNDERSTUDIES 



" There are reasons/' said she, with a curious 
attempt at dignity. 

"Well/' said Sarah, coldly, "I don't want 
to pry into your secrets, Aunt Arabella, but 
1 think it would do you good, and 1 see no 
sense in your going without everything for 
the sake of the shiftless, begging Stebbinses." 

"Now, Sarah, Eben Stebbins ain't shift- 
less; nobody ever said he was. He's always 
worked hard, but he's been dreadful unfortu- 
nate. He's had fire and sickness, and he's 
sick himself. Look how lame he is with the 
rheumatism, poor man!" 

"Well, I wasn't saying anything against 
Eben Stebbins," admitted Sarah ; "but if he 
comes begging, he's no better than the rest 
of them — a man begging of a woman!" 

" He hasn't, Sarah," Arabella cried, eager- 
ly. "He hasn't said a word, but I know if 
he has a wheel-chair, he could get around in 
it. But nobody has said a word about it. 
That was what I thought I'd use the money 
for. Poor Eben has had a dreadful hard 
time, and I'm dreadful sorry for his daughter 
Minnie, too." 

"What about her?" 

" Nothing, only she was going to get mar- 
ried to that Leavitt boy, and he'd just got his 
202 



PEONY 



nice new little house built, and he had enough 
money saved up to buy the furniture, and the 
bank he kept it in has failed up, and he's lost 
every dollar, and they Ve got to put off the 
weddin'. Eben offered to take them in with 
him, but the young man has got to live on 
his farm; you know it's three miles out of 
the village. Minnie said she didn't mind if 
there wasn't any furniture except the little 
her father could spare her — he hasn't got 
much, you know — but the young feller is real 
proud, and says she sha'n't live so, and he 
won't borrow. They feel dreadfully about 
it, and I should think they would. I've al- 
ways heard it was a bad sign to put off a 
weddin'." 

" Well, I don't see what you can do about 
it," said Sarah. She looked suspiciously at 
her aunt, who fidgeted a little and made an 
evasive answer. 

" I don't know as I can do anything," said 
she, meekly. She was rather afraid of her 
niece. She was, on the whole, relieved when 
she went away the first of the following week. 
She found it very peaceful to sit undisturbed 
in her disordered room, and not have Sarah 
raising a dust with the broom and making 
her move to facilitate the sweeping. She did 
203 



UNDERSTUDIES 

not like a way Sarah had of always shutting 
the doors. She loved her doors to be open, 
and her windows. She felt aggrieved when 
Sarah insisted on having the windows on 
the sunny side of the house shut, though she 
said nothing. The minute Sarah was gone 
Arabella waddled about softly and ponder- 
ously, flinging wide open doors and windows 
to admit anything which chose to enter — 
sunshine, winds, flies, stray cats — anything. 
Arabella minded nothing, not even bats or 
bumble-bees or hornets. She made every- 
thing which chose to enter her home welcome, 
being instinct with a spirit of hospitality 
which included the little as well as the great. 
Arabella was no heartier in her welcome to 
the minister than to the old ragman to whom 
she sold no rags, but with whom she shared 
her dinner. It was not very much of a dinner. 
Arabella did not get up very elaborate repasts, 
but they were plentiful. She boiled vegeta- 
bles or greens, she had baker's bread, eggs, 
and fruit, currants in their season, and apples. 
Arabella had quite an orchard. The village 
boys had the run of it. It was only through 
their generosity, which spared Arabella some 
of her own bounty, that she had any apples 
from her own orchard. The boys used to 
204 




Arabella had quite an orchard' 



PEONY 



pick some for her, and bring them to the 
house, and she was exceedingly grateful, 
and never once thought that they had dis- 
charged any obligation towards herself by 
so doing. Once she spoke to one of the bo}^s' 
mothers about it, and the woman looked at 
her wonderingly. ''Why, 1 don't see that 
it is anything for you to thank them for/' 
said she. "I told Franky that he and Al- 
bert and George ought to go to work and pick 
your apples for you, you had been so good 
about giving them so many. Franky has 
come home with his pockets stuffed day after 
day. 1 shouldn't have thought you would 
have had enough to make any pies/' 

" Oh, I never make any pies ; it's too much 
work/' said Arabella; "and the boys have 
been real good. They have brought ever so 
many to me. Sometimes 1 have been afraid 
they have robbed themselves." 

"Good land!" cried the woman. "Whose 
orchard is it?" 

When she w r ent home she told her sister 
she didn't know as Arabella Lambert was 
altogether right. 

The village children descended like a flock 
of birds upon Arabella's garden, and pillaged 
it at their will. They did not seem to care as 
205 



UNDERSTUDIES 



much about the peonies as about the other 
flowers, like roses or pinks. Their mothers 
told them not to bring those great coarse 
things home; they were in the way, Ara- 
bella was glad it was so. She would have 
suffered had the children been too free with 
the peonies ; she might have forbidden them. 
Her one streak of parsimoniousness show r ed 
itself in the case of those great fully blown 
flowers. She used to watch jealously lest the 
children trample them. The peonies were 
in bud the week after Sarah went away, and 
in full blossom the week after that, and they 
still endured when Sarah came up the walk 
one afternoon about five o'clock. 

Arabella put on her glasses and stared in 
a bewildered fashion at the straight, slim, 
genteel figure in the black India silk coming 
up the box-bordered path. She herself was 
sitting as usual in her doorway. 

"Why, Sarah Bisbee, that ain't you?" 
cried Arabella, as her niece drew near. There 
was a note of dismay as well as surprise in her 
voice. Sarah put down her black-silk para- 
sol carefully before she replied. She never 
talked while she w T as doing anything else. 

"Yes, it is 1, Aunt Arabella," said she. 
"Are you surprised?" 

206 



PEONY 



" Yes, 1 guess 1 be a little. 1 thought you 
was up to the mountains/' 

"Well, 1 expected to be there/' replied 
Sarah, " but the excursion was given up on 
account of the illness of the gentleman who 
was to conduct the party. It is postponed 
for three weeks. So 1 thought 1 would come 
over here. 1 thought 1 would give your 
house a thorough cleaning, and put up some 
currant- jelly for you. Then 1 saw when 1 
was here that some of your sitting-room 
chairs, and the parlor ones, too, for that mat- 
ter, needed fixing up. The wood ought to 
be rubbed. I've got a nice recipe for furni- 
ture polish. Then 1 want to see about the 
spare -chamber curtains and the bedspread 
being done up, too." 

Arabella stared at her niece, and her ex- 
pression of dismay deepened. "1 wouldn't 
bother about them, Sarah," said she, frankly. 
"Seems to me 1 wouldn't. It would be a 
good deal of work, and you must be tired 
out." 

"1 am not half so tired when I am doing 
something," replied Sarah, firmly. She 
made as if to enter, but her aunt Arabella 
did not move aside to allow her to do so. 

"1 guess I'll go in and lay aside my bon- 
207 



UNDERSTUDIES 



net/' remarked Sarah. Still Arabella did 
not move. 

Sarah looked at her in growing surprise, 
but she spoke easily enough. "1 guess if 
you will just move a little, Aunt Arabella/' 
said she, "then Til go in." 

Arabella did not stir. She sat perfectly 
still, filling up the doorway. Her eyes were 
fixed upon a great clump of red peonies be- 
side the path. 

The thought came to Sarah that possibly 
her aunt's hearing was failing. She spoke 
in the loud, clear, imperative voice which 
she used in the school-room. "If you will 
move a little, please, Aunt Arabella/' said 
she, "1 will go in and lay aside my bonnet." 

Arabella did not move. The look of aston- 
ishment on Sarah's face deepened to alarm. 
She touched her aunt, leaning over her, and 
shook her gently by the shoulders. " Why, 
Aunt Arabella," she shouted, "what is 
the matter? Can't you hear anything 1 
say? 

"Yes, Sarah, 1 hear every word," replied 
Arabella, unexpectedly. 

"Well, then, why don't you move a little 
and let me go in? 1 want to take off my 
bonnet." 

208 



PEONY 



Arabella sat immovable, with her eyes riv- 
eted upon the clump of peonies. 

Then Sarah straightened herself and stood 
staring at her aunt in consternation and 
astonishment which almost convulsed her 
steady face. Arabella wore an old-fashioned 
muslin covered with a large pattern in purple 
cross-bars, between which were little bunches 
of pink roses. This voluminosity of purple 
muslin over Arabella's bulk filled up the 
doorway completely with the apparent light- 
ness of a flower. Out of the soft frills of the 
muslin arose Arabella's creasy neck and 
her large, rosy, imperturbable face. Noth- 
ing could exceed the obstinacy of gentleness 
and mildness on that face ; it was a power of 
a kind to stop an army. Sarah continued to 
stare. ''Don't you want me to go in, Aunt 
Arabella?" she asked, finally. 

Arabella made no reply, but her face 
twitched. It was the first time in her whole 
life that she had ever held the door of her 
house against her own kith and kin. 

''Well/' said Sarah, in a high, thin voice 
that trembled slightly, " if you don't want me 
to go in your house, perhaps 1 had better go 
home, only it is too late for the stage-coach, 
and if 1 go to any of the neighbors to stay all 

o 209 



UNDERSTUDIES 



night, they may think it strange that I don't 
stay here/' 

Arabella made no reply to that. She was 
afraid of her niece with the unreasoning and 
uncalculating fear of a child. She held 
that door, knowing all the time that it was 
a futile measure, that her niece must finally 
enter, that the evil day was only postponed. 

Sarah stood for a moment longer undecided. 
Then she gave her bonneted head a toss and 
straight to the sitting-room windows she 
went. They were wide open, and the shut- 
ters thrown back. 

Sarah gave a long look through a win- 
dow, then she turned to her aunt, who kept 
her eyes fixed on the clump of peonies as if 
she found strength and support therefrom. 

"There are only that little card-table, 
and the shovel and tongs, and two chairs, 
and a cricket left in the sitting-room/' said 
Sarah. 

Arabella said nothing. 

Sarah went to a parlor window and raised 
herself on tiptoe to look therein. Then 
she turned to her aunt. "All the parlor 
furniture is gone/' said she. 

Then Arabella spoke. "I knew how 
you'd feel about it," said she, "and I hated 
210 



PEONY 



to have you know, but Minnie she came 
over here and she cried. She didn't think 
of havin' my furniture, but she cried, and 
the next morning I got Jonas Tibbets, 
and he loaded the furniture into his ex- 
press-wagon and carried it over to the 
new house/' 

"All the parlor furniture, and almost all 
the sitting-room gone/' said Sarah, slowly, 
as if she were informing herself. 

"I never sat in the parlor, and no more 
than two at a time ever come into the sit- 
ting-room, and 1 can sit on the cricket," 
said Arabella. 

"Have you given them the chamber 
furniture?" 

"Enough to furnish two chambers — that 
is all, Sarah. " 

" The spare-chamber furniture, I suppose?" 

"Yes, I did. You know I never have 
any company to stay all night, except you, 
Sarah; and 3 T ou know you alwa\ r s like the 
east room better ; that ain't touched. " 

"Well," said Sarah, grimly, "I sha'n't 
have to do up the spare -chamber spread 
and curtains." 

"They would have been a sight of work," 
said Arabella, eagerly. 

211 



UNDERSTUDIES 



Sarah stepped forward. "Well/* said 
she, "it was your own furniture, and I 
suppose you had a right to do what you 
wanted to with it. When you have given 
away the roof off your house, and the clap- 
boards and shingles, and the floor -boards, 
as you'll be sure to do before you die, you 
can come to my house, I suppose, and I 
won't sit in the door and keep you out. 
Now, Aunt Arabella,, if that was the reason 
why you didn't want me to go in, I know 
now, and there is no reason for keeping me 
out any longer. If you will move a little 
now, Til go in and lay aside my bonnet." 

Arabella moved, half rising, and the slim, 
black silk-clad figure of her niece pressed 
past her into the house. 

Then Arabella sat down again, and a 
beatific expression was on her face. She 
looked like a child who had escaped a scold- 
ing, and was radiant and triumphant in 
the supremacy of its own way, and bej^ond 
that look was another, which comes only 
to the face of the giver, out of all the faces 
of earth. 

She sat there filling up the doorway with 
her vast bulk, overspread with waves of 
purple-barred muslin, a woman with no 
212 



PEONY 



fine development of imagination or intellect, 
a woman whose whole scheme of existence 
was on lines so simple that they were fairly 
coarse, like those of the peony beside the 
gate, in which the mystery of the rose was 
lost in the grossness of utter revelation. 
She only knew enough to bloom like the 
flower, whether to her own grace or glory 
it mattered not, so long as it was to her far- 
thest compass, and to yield unstintingly all 
her largess of life to whomsoever crossed her 
path with a heart or hand of need for it. 



MORNING-GLORY 



MORNING-GLORY 



ALL over the stone wall in front of the 
l Bemis house the morning - glories 
thrived, and not only there, but on the trel- 
lis-work over the east door. They even 
trailed along the ground their garlands of 
purple, and rosy, and white blossoms, when 
support failed them. The morning-glory 
prefers a prop for her tender growth, but 
such is her rapture of youth and morning 
that she blossoms anywhere. From the 
face of the rock, from the depths of the dewy 
grass, from tree, and trellis, prone in the 
dust of the highway at the mercy of the feet 
of men, the morning - glories shout out their 
great silent chorus of triumph through a 
hundred trumpets of delicate bloom. 

The morning-glories had always been a 
distinctive feature of the Bemis place. Madam 
Bemis, as she was called, was very fond of 
them. Madam Bemis was the daughter of 
217 



UNDERSTUDIES 

old Squire Bemis, and she had married her 
own cousin, the son of Minister Bemis. Now, 
squires were out of date, and even ministers 
of as many years' settlement as her hus- 
band's father had lost prestige, but there 
was still recognition on the part of the vil- 
lagers for the descendants of such notables, 
hence the " Madam Bemis." They were 
emulous of her notice, and they had a pride 
which was like feudal loyalty in Alexander. 

Alexander's father had died when he was 
a child too young to remember him clearly. 
The little boy always had a face appear to his 
mental vision whenever the dead man's name 
was mentioned, but whether it was true or 
not he never knew. This vision was not in 
the least like a portrait of his father, done 
crudely in oil, which hung in the best parlor. 
This portrait represented his father as a very- 
young boy, with a face as puffed out with a 
wind of innocent gayety as a cherub's. He 
was dressed in the artlessly grotesque fashion 
of a former generation, in an awkward little 
nankeen suit, with a wide frill around the 
neck, and strapped shoes. " I could never see 
the least resemblance to your father after he 
was grown up, in that portrait," Alexander's 
mother used to say; "but I suppose he 
218 



MORNING-GLORY 



must have been like that when he was a 
child, for a good artist painted it. Your 
father never looked in the least like you, 
Alexander/' 

When Madam Bemis said that she would 
gaze up at her son with a perfect assent of 
admiration with which she had never gazed 
at his father. Her married life had not been 
altogether satisfactory to her. Her husband 
had been something of a disappointment. 
He was very much a Bemis, as was she, and 
there had been a constant, wearying echoing 
of family traits. "I wish, Addison, when 
you lose your temper, you would not lose 
it in exactly the same way that I do," she 
told her husband once. 

The tastes of the two had been so similar 
that they gave rise to that curious discord 
which may result from harmony. With such 
an identity of hereditary tastes, there was at 
once a loss of individuality, and a maddening 
intensifying of it as in a convex mirror, and 
the result was either weariness or a mon- 
strous egotism. In the woman's case it 
was weariness; in the man's, egotism. The 
woman, when her son came, had for the first 
time in her life a distinct interest in some- 
thing outside herself, and yet belonging to 
219 



UNDERSTUDIES 



her. She did not have to admire or dislike 
in the child her own appearance and traits, 
or her husband's. He was essentially dif- 
ferent from both parents, or appeared to be so. 
Certainly, he differed from them physically. 
Both Alexander's parents were small, with 
fair hair, and he was exactly the reverse. 
Madam Bemis said that he resembled her 
own father, who had not been a true Bemis, 
but had inherited from the mother's side. 
"My father was the first dark Bemis who 
ever lived, so far as I know," she said, "and 
he was like my grandmother, who was a 
Morril, and was said to have Indian blood. 
Alexander seems more like father than he 
does like me or his own father." Then 
Madam Bemis concluded, as she always 
concluded everything, all her paragraphs of 
life, with, as it were, a little tail-piece of a 
look of boundless admiration at Alexander. 

Alexander was accustomed to that look, 
and not on his mother's face alone. Every- 
body whom he met looked at him in that 
fashion. He was never at any time par- 
ticularly elated by it. He merely acquiesced 
in it as his rightful due, and had done so 
from the first. Alexander had been a very 
precocious child, and not in the least slow 
220 



He used to view his small image 



MORNING-GLORY 



to recognize his own relation to his environ- 
ments. Long before people thought that 
he understood, when they talked before his 
face of his beauty and brilliancy, he was 
fulty alive to the situation. 

"Oh, that baby can't understand what 
we say/' one woman replied to another, 
who remonstrated with her for her outspoken 
admiration in the presence of the child. 
"He doesn't know what a beauty he is, do 
you, darling?" 

But Alexander, who could speak few 
words, and understood many, and who, be- 
sides, had as keen an intelligence for varia- 
tions of voice and expressions of face as a 
dog, would look at her with his wonderful 
contemplative black eyes and understand 
perfectly. 

He knew that he was a beautiful, marvel- 
lous little boy ; that no other child in the vil- 
lage could equal him; and everybody ad- 
mired him. 

He used to view his small image in the 
mirror with no vanity, but entire compre- 
hension of its beauty. There had really 
never been such a beautiful child as Alex- 
ander in the village, or perhaps in the State. 
There was something about that noble, 

221 



UNDERSTUDIES 



gentle little face lighted with those great 
black stars of eyes, and that little figure full 
of the touching majesty of innocence and 
childhood, which made a woman's heart 
ache with love and desire, and a man's with 
ambition and desire. 

" That boy is going to be something, if he 
lives/' they said. The} T repeated his bright 
sayings, which were many. He was a tal- 
ented child. When he went to school he 
soon outstripped those of his own age, and 
graduated the youngest of his class, and 
was ready for college at seventeen. 

Madam Bemis went to college with Alex- 
ander. She could not bear her beautiful, 
noble son to be long out of her sight. The 
Bemis place was shut up during the long 
terms, and Madam Bemis lived in the college 
town, and made a home for Alexander. But 
when the morning-glories were in blossom 
the two were home again, and Alexander, 
resplendent with new clothes, and new stat- 
ure, and new knowledge, was passing in and 
out of the east door, under the trellis, purple, 
and rosy, and white with the trumpet-shaped 
flowers. 

The admiration of Alexander grew and 
grew. He was making a brilliant record at 

222 



MORNING-GLORY 



college; he seemed to be moving on an as- 
cendent scale in everything — mind, looks, 
and attainments. People began to think 
that he might in time become almost any- 
thing : representative, senator, perhaps even 
President, at least governor of the State. His 
mother had the fullest faith in it. 

"There is no reason why you cannot be 
anything that you want to be, Alexander/' 
she would say, and Alexander would flash 
upon her one of his brilliant, contemplative 
looks, and make no dissent. There was in 
reality something sublime in the boy's con- 
sciousness of his own power. It was com- 
pletely removed from vanity. It was a sim- 
ple, ingenuous recognition of the truth. 

"Alexander Bemis does think he's awful 
smart," said one sharp -tongued, dissenting 
young girl to another, who retorted: 

"Well, he is awful smart." 

"I would rather he didn't know it," said 
the first. 

"Then he wouldn't be bright," said the 
other. 

Alexander was worshipped afar off by the 
young girls of the village, but he made a 
sweetheart of none of them until he had 
graduated from college. He came home 
223 



UNDERSTUDIES 



laden with honors. He had won prize after 
prize. He had been mentioned in the news- 
papers. Madam Be mis was so proud of him 
that life was to her like a triumphal march. 
If the church-bell in this little New England 
village, which never rang in the interest of 
any individual, unless his house was on fire 
or he was on his way to his tomb, had pealed 
for joy when Alexander came home from col- 
lege, she would have considered it quite ap- 
propriate. What demonstration in greeting 
of such magnificent promise as that of her 
son could be out of place? 

However, although the bell was not rung, 
Alexander was made much of in his native 
village. Young as he was, he was elected a 
member of the school committee, and was 
made chairman of the selectmen. At every 
public meeting he was called upon as ''our 
talented and promising young townsman" 
to speak. He sat upon the platform with 
the local dignitaries ; his name, prinked out 
with laudatory adjectives, appeared often 
in the local paper. Alexander at that time 
could scarcely sit down, or stand up, or eat 
his breakfast but it was made the subject 
of admiring chronicle. He could not speak 
without a listening hush. He held undis- 
224 



MORNING-GLORY 



puted moral sway over the whole village, 
but his head was not in the least turned. 
He bore all his honors with the magnif- 
icent ease and unconcern of one born to a 
crown. 

The year after Alexander graduated Aman- 
da Doane came to live in the village. Her 
father was a rich manufacturer, who bought 
out the little factory, and established a gi- 
gantic plant, which might in time convert 
the small town into a city. His daughter 
was a beauty of a coarse, emphatic type. 
Xot a line wavered, not a color was indetermi- 
nate. Her loud, clear voice never faltered in 
the expression of her opinions. Alexander 
lost his heart to her at once. The village 
people quite approved of the match, but 
Madam Bemis hesitated. For the first time 
a doubt as to whether the king could not do 
wrong seized her. When her son told her 
of his engagement, she looked at him uncer- 
tainly. 

"Why. what is the matter, mother?*' 
Alexander asked, with wonder. 

" She is not like the women of our family/" 
Madam Bemis replied, falteringly. 

Alexander laughed. " She is a lady at 
heart," he replied, ''and as for the rest, she 
P 225 



UNDERSTUDIES 



can acquire it. Not that 1 am not entirely 

satisfied/' he added, generously. 

But Amanda Doane acquired nothing. 
She remained a fact, settled and incontro- 
vertible. Her period for receptivity had 
passed. Although she was still young, her 
character had formed and developed to a 
perfect flower of resistance to all outside 
influence. 

The engagement was not to be a long one; 
the wedding-day was set. Then one after- 
noon Amanda appeared at the Bemis house. 
Such was her almost brutal directness of 
action when her mind had once formed a pur- 
pose, that she came, rather than send for 
Alexander. " 1 don't care if you stay in the 
room," said she to Madam Bemis; "I would 
just as soon you heard." 

Then she confronted the two, the splendid 
young fellow and his adoring mother, and 
made her little speech, which was full of rev- 
olutionary eloquence. It was the revolt of a 
daughter of the people — of the modern con- 
ditions of things against all inactive su- 
periority. The girl did not speak good 
English, but she spoke with a force which 
made her own language. "Now, you look 
at here, Alexander Bemis/' said she. "I've 
226 



MORNING-GLORY 



promised to marry you, and I'm most ready, 
clothes all bought an' everything. I don't 
know what you will say, an' I don't know 
what folks will say, and 1 can't help it, and 
1 don't care. Fm goin' to back out. I've 
got to look out for myself, and my father s 
money, that he's worked so hard to get, with- 
out a dollar to start with. I'm goin' to back 
out. Fve liked you, an' 1 like you now, an* 
it ain't none too easy for me. an' Fve laid 
awake some nights thinkin' of it, but it's 
better for both of us. 1 ain't goin' to marry 
you. You're good and steady and hand- 
some, and you're awful smart, but you ain't 
done anythin' but talk smart, an' look smart, 
an' be smart ; you ain't never acted smart, 
an' I don't believe you ever will. You haven t 
done anythin'. You've jest laid right back 
on your reputation, an' that's what you're 
goin' to do right along. Fd rather have a 
man with less smartness than you that can 
use what little he's got. There's no use. Fm 
goin' to back out." 

The girl's voice broke a little; there were 
tears in her indignant blue eyes; her red 
hps pouted into sobs, which she resolutely 
restrained. Alexander towered over her, 
pale and magnificent and quite silent. His 

227 



UNDERSTUDIES 



mother shrank into a little, faintly breathing, 
wide-eyed heap in a corner of a sofa. Aman- 
da pulled the engagement ring, a little ancient 
pearl hoop, an heirloom in the Bemis family, 
from her finger. 

" Here," said sne— " here's your ring. Til 
always wish you well." 

Alexander took the ring between a long 
thumb and forefinger — Amanda's were short 
and stubbed — and looked at it, then at the 
girl, with a sort of pained and stately acqui- 
escence. "Very well, Amanda," he replied, 
quite calmly, but his lips were white. Gen- 
tleman born and bred, diametrically different 
by nature and training, he had been very 
fond of this girl, who defied, with her coarse 
but splendid vigor, all laws and rules of 
growth and advance to which she did not 
herself subscribe. 

"Why ain't the kind of English I speak 
as good as yours?" she had demanded of him 
once. They would always have spoken two 
languages had they lived together for a life- 
time, but that had not seemed of much mo- 
ment to him. She had, perhaps, supplied 
some inherent need of his nature, and been 
to him a sort of spiritual trellis-work, which 
had been essential for his future growth. 
228 



MORNING-GLORY 



Be that as it may, after Amanda Doane de- 
serted him he retrograded further and still 
further from his early promise, though that 
might have happened in any case. 

Amanda soon married a young manu- 
facturer, who went into business with her 
father. Alexander used often to see her 
driving in her smart trap, with her keen- 
looking, alert husband by her side. Later 
on he saw her with a small brood of children, 
who were the children of her time as well, 
who raised a shrill babel of voices, like a 
multiple of their mother's. 

As time went on, and Alexander did no 
more than he had done, people began gradu- 
ally to lose faith in him, especially after his 
mother died. Her faith had served as a 
prop for that of others. Then slowly Alex- 
ander dropped and sagged away from his 
high estate until he lay nearly prone in his 
path of life, yet still, even there, with a cer- 
tain unconquerable beauty and glory. No 
man could ever say aught against Alexander 
Bemis, except that he had never done that 
which he had bade fair to do, and had failed 
to keep his promise to himself. He lived 
to be an old man, old and shrunken, going 
in and out his east door, under the garlands 
229 



UNDERSTUDIES 



of morning-glories, and people, seeing him, 
used to speak in this wise: "That is Alex- 
ander Bemis. Everybody used to think he 
was going to be something great, but he 
never amounted to anything at all. He has 
never done anything. He used to speak in 
town-meeting; we thought he would be a 
Daniel Webster or a Charles Sumner, and go 
to Congress, but he never did. When he was 
young everybody thought there was nobody 
like him in town, but he never came to any- 
thing." 

Every spring the morning-glories came 
again and sent forth their great silent chorus 
of youth and victory from their hundred 
trumpet mouths. Then at noon they closed 
and slept, and remained asleep until the 
next morning, when they awoke again to 
their chorus of victory, and Alexander passed 
beneath them, still old and wrecked and 
defeated. But the day of a man is longer 
than that of a flower. 



THE END 



By LILIAN BELL 



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